My apartment building in the heart of San Francisco is almost 100 years old, the windows are leaking. It doesn’t really matter whether they are closed or open. Every night on the street in front of the window the losers of the digital society scream their anger and frustration from rough throats of the soul. Often for hours. There are drunks, homeless people, drug addicts, uprooted people who never find rest, barefoot and who are wrapped in holey felt blankets.
Her screams are only drowned out occasionally by the sirens of the police vehicles racing across Union Street to O’Farrell Street. Because of the roaring, no patrol has been going on for a long time. Someone has probably been beaten up. Perhaps worse has happened, that’s where the police hunt.
In the morning my San Francisco shows itself from behind the kitchen window with the chipped white paint from the forgiving side. The sky is bright blue, opposite I see historical buildings with richly decorated facades. Next to it is a sparkling white apartment tower from the 1940s, on the top of which an American flag is waving in the summer wind.
I am privileged. My little apartment is on the top floor, and the view from the window shows a bit of heaven and the picturesque side of the west coast metropolis with morning coffee. To see the street below, I would have to lean out of the window. But I don’t do that.
Many homeless people are drawn to California
“California is a shame for the United States,” US President Donald Trump called cheering fans at a campaign event in Ohio. San Francisco and Los Angeles in particular, with their “tent cities and terrible conditions”, are a disaster. Half of all homeless people in the United States lived in California, the president claimed. Officials do not deny that many homeless people move to the south of the states. If you don’t have a roof over your head, of course you go to California, not Alaska.
Jennifer Friedenbach of the citizens’ initiative “Coalition on Homelessness” criticizes a president who only speaks and does nothing against homelessness. “The crisis was triggered in the 80s by another Republican who cut the funds for social housing by 80 percent,” says Friedenbach. It is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan at the time.
In addition, many people on the street have to deal with psychological problems. And the psychiatric hospitals were closed at the time. The patients just wandered around the street. Many health insurance companies were unable to get treatment for mental illnesses at all before Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s health care reform. It just wasn’t paid.
Trump is now blaming the California ruling liberal democrats for the chaos and degrading conditions. They would only be wasting money, the president claims.
California has arrived at the center of the presidential election campaign 2020.
Tents from the homeless
The giant trucks of Hollywood film productions are right next to the tents.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is inviting “the whole world”, including illegal immigrants, to live at California’s expense. Was it the week before in Baltimore in democratic Maryland that Trump accused of inhumane conditions (“rat-infested, nobody wants to live there”) or Chicago, the Clinton’s hometown, is San Francisco – again.
Gates prevent homeless people from sleeping in the entrance area
Trump wants to bad-mouth America’s flagship state. At the 2016 election, 66 percent of voters in California voted for democratic competitor Hillary Clinton, compared to more than 90 percent in Silicon Valley.
On the one hand, California is home to the Silicon Valley, home to the film metropolis Hollywood and large parts of the armaments and electronics industry. On the other hand, there is the greatest child poverty in the USA. Homelessness is rising steadily due to rapidly rising rents and property prices.
The street catches up with me when I leave the house through the cast iron front grille that was installed at some point in front of the front door. It prevents homeless people from rolling out their sleeping bags in the entrance area at night, relieving themselves or entering the house through the video-monitored lobby.
Every house here has such grids installed. Here, that’s the limit to the tenderloin. This district was the cultural heart of San Francisco in the 20s and 30s. In a rectangle of seven by seven blocks between Market and Geary Street, and Mason and Van Ness Street, the city council estimates the number of homeless at just under 4,000.
My way to the Moscone event center also takes me past the imposing Glide Church at the intersection of Ellis and Taylor streets. The Glide Memorial United Methodist Church opened in 1931 and is now one of the most liberal churches in the United States and an anchor point for the lost from Tenderloin. When the food distribution is due, the snake is often several hundred meters long, extends around the whole block and sometimes even beyond.
Every evening the tent cities are set up on the sidewalks here and in the surrounding streets. Tattered night dwellings marked by daily assembly and dismantling crowd on house facades and offer their residents a last remnant of deceptive protection, which they sometimes know from a previous life.
At least something can close behind it – even if it’s just a broken zipper.
The majority of the homeless have lost their homes because of the ever increasing rents.
In the largest department store in the city center, near Target, the camping tents have been enclosed in large mesh boxes since 2017. If you want to buy one, you have to contact a seller. The theft rate was too high without this security measure, it is said. Toothpaste, hygiene products for women and shaving supplies are also excluded.
Completely disturbed tourist families make their way through the partially half or not clothed people who are lying apathetically on the sidewalks with or without a sleeping bag. Shocked children cling to the hands of mothers and fathers who are still pulling their suitcases behind them on the way to the hotel. It smells pungent of urine.
The hotels of these tourists are centrally located and bargain prices typically range from $ 200 to $ 500 a night. But it quickly becomes clear that there is a reason for the cheap tariff in the tenderloin.