Tuesday Jan 23-2018
Back in the summer when Doug and I decided to sell the house, and start traveling in our RV to help people, I had done a bit of research on the San Francisco Area. It was there that I leaned about District 6. Apparently there are over 49,000 homeless people living on the streets in this area. Most are war vets, and people who have spent time in prison.
Today, we took the jeep from where we were parked at the KOA in Petaluma, and made out way across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were appalled that there was a $7.50 toll charge! Really? Our RV spot was close to $90.00 Canadian a night, which we learned later was probably because they had opened up several of field to accommodate local fire victims. (That was the rumor). If so I am ticked. In saying this, I would highly recommend this KOA. Pricey but fantasic. Hope they were not taking advantage of people in distress. Anyhow, I got off track.
We found a place to park near Pier 39 and could only sigh once again to find out the parking charges were $3.00 for every 15 minutes we were there. Expensive city or what ! lol 🙂 We took Chicago in her Service vest and introduced her to the incredible masses of tourists, buskers and sights. She was pretty unsure of her surroundings, but after about an hour of ripping my hands trying to hold onto her leash she settled down and was utterly fascinated with all of the commotion, sights and sounds. I took this pic cause I love the colours !!!!
We did pass a lot of buskers (people holding signs or playing guitars and singing for tips), but for some reason we did not feel moved to try and help them in some way. After grabbing a bite to eat, we loaded up with 30 meals, and started driving the streets of this massive city in search of those who really needed help.
Straight up…. we were beginning to feel that perhaps God was not hearing our prayers to find these broken souls. We got lost, and everywhere we went there was bumper to bumper traffic, our GPS was drunk, and our hearts began to sink as it got darker. We must have spent an hour trying to get through and around China town… my gosh! There were thousands of people everywhere…visiting, running sidewalk markets, glued to their phones… it felt like we had seriously entered another country! Some very beautiful sights though 🙂
Finally we ended up in a poorer district and we began to see the masses of homeless appear, pushing their heavy carts of belongings like phantoms wondering in the darkness. I was finally sick and tired of not being able to find a place to park…so when I saw one young man with an over loaded buggy of blankets and pop cans, I jumped out of the jeep and told Doug to go around the block and catch up with me.
Enter the Good Lord and HIS direction!
The man I began talking to was Casper. He was pretty shy at first until I told him who I was, and what my husband and I were trying to do. I gave him a hot diner, and his whole posture changed. A smile came across his face, and he told me to follow him a couple of blocks and he would lead us to a place called “Triangle Square”. At this place, many of his friends would meet up every evening and share what ever food they had been able to scrounge up and then stick together in a group though the night to keep safe. Doug had caught up to me by that time, and Casper told him where to drive to and park.
As we waked into Triangle Square, there were shadows of people gathered in various places. We walked towards them, introduced ourselves and started to had out meals. One man in particular would not look at us. He was packing up his cart and making a run for it. He wanted no part of us. But then something really cool happened. He heard me say why were were there and that we were from Canada! Wow….. the tension you could have cut with a knife evaporated like a thick fog, and all of a sudden we were among friends.
I am going to share a few of their stories, and then a few from people we met later on in the evening.
Casper has been on the streets of San Francisco for about 8 months. He is maybe in his mid thirties, and has the most incredible smile and beautiful brown eyes. He is soft spoken and a tender soul. Four months ago he and his wife of over ten years were sleeping somewhere, then the cops pulled up and yelled at them to move on. They noticed that his wife was really sick. He thought she may of had the influenza. They took Casper’s wife with them and told him to move on. He does not know where she is. He figured they had taken her to a hospital, and from there she may of ended up in a shelter of some sort. He knew in his heart that if she was alive, she would be trying to find him. So for four months he has been wandering the same area he last saw her in… searching for the love of his life day and night. He had tried calling police to see where she may have been taken, but they will give him no information. “Do you have any idea how big this city is?” he asked. “I will ever leave, and I will NEVER give up trying to find my beautiful wife!” Now that is a heart breaker. The photo you see here is one of myself, Casper ( on the left wearing his bandit mask…lol) and another kind man called Stephen. He would only consent to having his photo taken for our blog if I have him a cigarette 🙂
Jackie was one of two women in the group, and she is from Crescent City. She has been there for about 6 months and stays with the guys to stay safe. She said it was not safe for a woman to be on her own as she has seen other women raped and beaten. She has three children. After her husband left, she could not keep afloat on the minimum wage job she had, so her parents have two of her children and one is in Foster Care. Oh how she cried as she told me her story 🙁 Jackie is also an animal lover. She too is soft spoken and kind, but for some reason Chicago would NOT let her go anywhere near her. The hackles would come up and that made Jackie sad. Everyone else could pet her or give her a treat we carried in our pockets….. but there was just something about this woman she did not like. Perhaps she approached her too quickly or there was something Happy Tail didn’t like the smell of. However, when we asked if it was ok to take a few photos…. and I made it very clear we did not need to show any faces…. she was ripping into everyone and telling them that this was important.
“These people are blogging. They are trying to help people like us! Maybe if more saw how we lived and heard some of out stories, we would not be hated so much!” Jackie and I shared several hugs with a few tears. She thanks us for coming and told us she would be hoping that our journey would be safe, and doors would open for us to help more people. Oddly enough, in her own struggles, she really wanted us to find the war vets that we knew lived in the desert. She sure was concerned about them! ( Steady Freddy, Doug and I, and Jackie)
Jazz Man’s Story:
At one point Jackie pointed me in the direction of a man sitting off to the side by himself in the dark. She knew he too would be hungry. So I made my way over to the bench, took a seat beside Jazz Man and asked if he was hungry. Stupid question huh? We had a bit of a chat. He told me that two nights ago it had been freezing out so he had stepped onto a patio pub and leaned in to have his smoke close to one of the patio heaters. The owners I guess called the police and they hauled him off to jail. I guess he was not treated very well. I did not sensed that Jazz Man was not on drugs. His speech was bright, as were his melancholy eyes. We chatted for a while, and I tried to encourage him as best as I could before returning to the group. On the way home Doug and I were talking about everyone we had met, when I commented that Jazz Man sounded like those drag queens I see on TV when they do the New Years Eve countdown. He laughed his head off. “Didn’t you look at who you were talking too?” “Of course, I replied. I made eye contact, did not have intrusive body posture and I believe I made him feel comfortable chatting with me”. Doug was still laughing. I guess I did not notice that Jazz Man was wearing nylons, heals and a dress. Lesson: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover right?
Steady Freddy’s Story:
Steady Freddy was the man who was packing to leave when we entered Triangle Square. This is where things got interesting. When Freddy heard we were from Canada.. he said he felt in his heart that God was telling him we were good and safe people. He was totally elated and talked forever. Long story short, Freddy is a Pastors son, but on the streets of Chicago among other places, he found easy money as a young man to sell drugs. Within this circle of thugs he said he felt more cared for then he had from anyone growing up in Church. So for a few decades, Freddy lived his days behind prison walls. During his last nickle (5 year stint), he decided that he wanted to get right with God, turn his life around and become a better man.
Freddy has been out of prison for 1 year!!!!!!! HE has been clean, and goes by the grace of God everyday to stay that way, and keep away from the lifestyle that led him to destruction. It’s the first time since he was a kid that he had not been behind bars for Christmas, or his Birthday.
Then he started sharing scripture, laughing and telling everyone else, there was no hope for them without God. Here was a guy who could not get work because of his background… living on the streets and ministering to the group we were in……right before our eyes! His passion, his laughter, and joy talking about how God had helped him stay clean was infectious. Pretty soon most everyone was talking about God. Some shared their sad experiences with churches, while others talked about how they wished they could find the faith he had. FREDDY became a preacher that night and we had church in District 6. 🙂
We could of talked with him and everyone else all night! But we knew there were others…so we shared a lot of hugs with everyone…. said our good byes, and went in search of others.
One one side of a dark road I could see three or four people huddled in a group near a park bench. I jumped out of the jeep once again, but to my dismay I only had three meals left, and there were five of them. One was a lovely looking woman. She took the meals and shared that they were all really hungry. I apologized that I only had three left, and she smiled and assured me they would share.
Back in the jeep…of course….. boot off a couple of blocks and pick up 12 more dinners. We returned shortly and I popped out to pass out meals to the ones we had missed. She directed me to the two men who had not been fed, and I offered the one I had left in my hand. She smiled at me again, and said…”No honey… you hold onto that. We have already had something to eat. Give it to someone else who has nothing”. Are ya kidding me? Wow.
As I got back in the jeep I saw a naked person across the street in a shop doorway , doing the funky chicken… Meth is my bet. I was going to cross over, and Doug put his foot down. Glad he did. That may not have been a safe place to venture into right? Easy girl…do not get to excited that you loose your common sense!
To finish off he night we passed out remaining meals as we saw need. I did approach one man who had emptied an ashtray on the sidewalk to collect the un-used tobacco. When I approached……. he was literally TERRIFIED of me.
Poor guy 🙁
The last couple of guys we met, were actual HOBO’s. Valentine, his side kick Jeff and little Ginger who was a beautiful young happy pit cross. Oh I feel in love with her!!!!!!!!!!! Valentine had been jumping trains most of his life, and Jeff who was perhaps Autistic was his travelling companion along with sweet Ginger!
Doug and I must have talked with them for over half an hour. No drugs, no prison, just drifters. Educated….cool and awesome! We had a packed several zip lock bags with Santana’s food in them, so Doug gave them to the guys for ginger, and we emptied our pockets of all the dog treats and healthy snacks we had been carrying.
I could of listened to them all night long. Their stories were fascinating! When I told him my one last bucket list was to jump a train for a couple of days and hobo like my grandfather had during the depression, he told me the best place to go, and the safest place to get on to ride the rails through the Cascades. One day I WILL do that. 🙂
I would be here all week just writing a book on these two and their many tales. I will leave it at this, and say in closing that the good Lord led us to where we were needed, and as we left San Francisco, it felt like we were leaving some new friends behind. What a great feeling.
That night we were blessed to meet and feed 42 people.