Having both lived in and visited San Francisco over many years, I've witnessed firsthand what a major homeless problem is. There are literally thousands of people camped out on the streets of San Francisco.
Office workers chatting on cel phones, stepping over sleeping (or dead?) homeless people laying on the sidewalk, lean-tos holding all the worldly possesions of a homeless person are seen set up along the side walls of fancy restaurants; hundreds and sometimes thousands of people sleep outdoors in the city's parks. At one time, the park in front of San Francisco's glorious City Hall looked like a tent city.
Never in St. Louis would you see this sort of situation. There has been some documentation recently about Lucas Park being a homeless encampment. And there's a controversy surrounding the possibility of developing a dog park at the same location, dislocating the homeless. However, yesterday and today, I had my first San Francisco homeless deja vue experience right here in downtown St. Louis.
For the past couple of days, I've had to be at work downtown about an hour earlier than usual, and then leave the office for meetings that were starting around 7:30 am. Each day, I travelled Pine out of downtown, past the Soldier's Memorial.
Across from the Soldier's Memorial is a small park. It sits between Pine, Olive, 13th and 14th. The park has turned into a homeless encampment. As I drove by I could see fifteen to twenty groups of people, some sleeping, some just waking up, in the park. Some had blankets spread out on the ground, others were sleeping on benches. Maybe there's a sense of security for homeless people to gather together overnight.
Just a few years ago, there were very few visible signs of homeless people on the streets of downtown. There were stories about some longtime downtown homeless that slept in the bushes next to the stairs of the Civil Courts building. But they weren't taking over city parks.
I'm curious to hear what others' think we as a community should be doing for the homeless people living in St. Louis.