James is selling the Street Sheet on the corner of Suter and Powell. He says,
‘Right, first point. I ain’t homeless, got myself sorted. Attend computer classes once a week. Got a job sweeping these streets twice a week.’
He talks about sorting out welfare, a place to live, that selling the Street Sheet supplements his meagre income. Gets angry about the homeless, talks about how they don’t want to be anywhere else, just here on the street. They hustle money for drugs, for alcohol, he says. Points down the hill, wants to know if we passed Betsie in the wheelchair.
‘She’s been like that for six years, six years. She could get welfare, but she don’t, she just wants to be here with her dogs, on the street. She could, they could, go to the shelters. Three meals, they give you three meals, breakfast, dinner and supper. Each day they give you that but she don’t want it. Just wants to be here.’
He says that introducing proposition L was a good thing. The San Francisco Sit-Lie Ordinance, proposition L, restricting people from sitting or lying on sidewalks between from 7am to 11pm, was introduced in November 2010.
‘It took people off the streets. Before that they were in your face. Getting aggressive, hustling tourists.’
When we part he says,
‘Now you folks have a nice day.’
On Market Street near the cable car turntable I watch a woman, maybe in her early 40s, step gracefully among the tourists queuing for the cable car. She cradles a Ghetto Blaster, but the sound is muted, quiet. Describing a delicate pattern on the pavement, her head is inclined, first to the right and then left. She appears oblivious to her surroundings, caught up as she is in her gestures, her movement. Nearby an elderly Chinese woman, pushing a trolley, rummages through bins. She wears purple surgical gloves, uses a wire coat hanger as a hook to extract whatever is worthwhile from the bins. She works methodically.
Misty and cool earlier, the sun’s shining now, the afternoon air warm. We leave tomorrow; two days flying, back in the UK on Tuesday.