Newly Homeless

“The late-afternoon shadows were slipping into evening darkness as Phyllis Trammell trudged down a SoMa street last Thursday. She had seven city blocks to go at the end of another long day on the streets.

As she’s done almost every night for the last three weeks, Trammell was headed for the free shelter at Fifth and Bryant, where she would join a line of hopeful people – mostly men – waiting to be admitted. There’s a nightly lottery, and the winners get the beds. Trammell says she doesn’t bother. She thinks it is easier, and safer, to doze sitting up in a chair.

“It’s a terrible experience,” she said. “One of the worst experiences of my life.”

Trammell is 72 and newly homeless. She says that when she lost her apartment in Sacramento, she decided to come back to the city, where she used to live. With her is her son, Louis Williams, who is 42 and developmentally delayed. A cheerful soul, Williams talks happily to himself unless someone mentions eating.

“Do you have some food?” he asked several times. “Do you have a Coke? Some juice?”

There are thousands of homeless individuals on San Francisco’s streets. Some are in and out of shelters every night. Some camp in parks. Some wander the streets all night and doze in a sunny spot during the day.

San Franciscans take it as an article of faith that the city has lots of services for its poor. Although some people are handicapped by addiction or psychological issues and can’t take advantage of those opportunities, for the most part San Francisco has a large, expensive safety net for those who truly need help.”

Text by C.W. Nevius.  I met and followed Phyllis and her son Louis for a few hours as they made their way from a community center to a homeless shelter in search of a place to sleep for the night.

Read more here: 72-year-old mom, disabled son lost on S.F. streets

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