Hard Times Visit Even The Finest of Cities

It seems like these days everyone, including San Diego, has been feeling the effects of an economy turned sour.  Perhaps the most obvious sign of this has been a visible increase in the number of homeless under bridges, sleeping in cars, or wedged in stoops.

The bridge near my house has always been a safe haven for local hobos, most of whom were friendly and usually only stayed there an evening or two before rotating to one of the other bridges nearby or visiting Father Joe’s down the way.  These days though, there are so many new faces setting up semi permanent tents that I really wonder what sort of steps, if any, we as citizens or the city could take to help all these folks.

This morning, as I made my way to work, people who follow my twitter stream might have noticed a brief encounter I had with one of my new neighbors:

I got a good look at the guy, and was shocked to see that he couldn’t have been more that 25.  27 tops.  Was this a victim of the Iraq War?  I’d grown so used to the image of the worn looking middle aged homeless vets I’ve heard identified as the lost platoon: men who tell tales of their time in South East Asia and gather near Balboa Park for the Stand Down.  Or was this someone who just couldn’t keep it together during the craziness of the last few months and just lost his way?  Either way, for a second I couldn’t reconcile this wild eyed young man sitting up in his sleeping bag with my preconceptions and of who I’m used to seeing on the streets.

Just a bit further on near 9th, I spotted another large group spread out among the remains of the old Churchill Hotel (a recently defunct old SRO) getting their things together as the sun started to peek up from behind Golden Hill.  Were there even more tents set up along the C Street corridor than the day before?

Obviously this issue isn’t going to go away overnight, and it must be more widespread than my tiny corner of the world.

I’m curious, what changes have you noticed in your neck of the woods?  What do you think the city’s responsibility is towards helping all of the hundreds of newly homeless families and veterans?  How are other cities coping?

Let me know what you think.  Drop a line in the comments or hit me up on twitter.

@morrisato

The 5 overpass near City College at C Street between 17th and 19th streets.

Taken 11 FEB 09 near the 5 underpass near City College at C Street between 17th and 19th streets.

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