A homeless man pulls a cart with his belongings across X Street in Sacramento. Randy Pench rpench@sacbee.com
A homeless man pulls a cart with his belongings across X Street in Sacramento. Randy Pench rpench@sacbee.com

California Forum

What more can be done for homeless people? A homeless woman says: It’s something just to be kind

By Julie B. Seymour

Special to The Bee

November 22, 2017 05:20 AM

UPDATED November 25, 2017 08:22 AM

A homeless man dies in Sacramento, and a community asks: What more could we have done?” That was the title of Kelly O’Neill’s recent article (Forum, Nov. 12).

My answer is, Kelly O’Neill did her part by being his friend, and not looking at him as a second-rate citizen or treating him indifferently.

Homeless people are stereotyped and classified in a whole different way. Just being Jose’s friend was huge. You know how I know? Because I am one of those homeless people, one of the many who have slipped under the radar in recent years.

Homeless people are stereotyped and classified in a whole different way. Just being Jose’s friend was huge. You know how I know? Because I am one of those homeless people, one of the many who have slipped under the radar in recent years.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

I have emphysema and COPD. I have to wear oxygen 24/7. For a number of reasons, including mistakes I have made in my own past, I have been in and out of homeless programs for many years. Right now, my main shelter is a broken down car.

A lot of people don’t realize that the reason you see so many homeless people moving around at night is to keep warm in cold weather and for our own personal safety. The streets are very dangerous and unpredictable, and if we sleep, we stand a chance of physical or sexual assault – women more than men, but men can get robbed and beaten up over a cigarette.

There are bullies out there. You become prey, like an animal. You become a victim of the streets and our lives are threatened if we report it.

Yet many times homeless people only hang with others like themselves – that’s also where they get their advice, their resource information, their social time, their directions. Every part of their well-being is enveloped into the homeless environment in which they live.

This car is my foundation, my shelter, my closet for my duffel bag of clothes, my purse and my overnight bag, my storage for medicine and medical equipment, my sanctuary and my home.

I can see my health deteriorating as the weather gets colder. I don’t know how much longer I can stay out here. Being homeless has aged me a good 10 to 15 years before my time and my appearance shows the hard knocks I’ve endured.

But then I think about Jose, who didn’t even have a car, and how sad it is that he had to crawl up on someone’s porch to die. I pray that he didn’t die alone. It’s sad and I’m so sorry that people have to live this way, and that America has come to this.

We’re run by government and large corporations who would rather have homeless people go away and disappear from the everyday routes we take going to work, returning home and moving around. So often I see people pointing or whispering behind my back. They are more ashamed of me than I am of myself.

When you ask yourself if there was something more you could do, my answer is: Share with others the lost art of friendship and true meaning of human kindness.

If only we had more people who would go out of their way to buy a cheap hamburger to give to that guy over behind the bushes or a hot cup of coffee for someone who’s been out all night in the rain, people who would genuinely care.

Julie B. Seymour, 59, was born in Roseville and has moved in and out of homelessness in the Sacramento area for at least a decade. Reach her at julz420js59@gmail.com.

Editors note

Take Two is taking the holiday week off, and will return next Sunday.