When I lived in Berkeley there was a homeless man whose name I believe was Charles. I was scared of this man. He would confront me on the street, accuse me of being a sodomizing police officer that he was going to kill me in righteousness. If I saw him a block away, I would cross but he would see me, walk to the middle of the street, and start yelling, pointing, cussing. He pulled a knife once, waved it. I've been thinking about him lately. We always thought that no matter how violent he was (I was not his only target, and after a few months he came to forget how much he wanted me dead), he was of the most harm to himself. To think of a man that tortured, that angry. To think of his mind grappling with itself, the voice that cries because it can't be heard in it's own mind. To think of the cold, wet nights he spent coming down off whatever he'd taken the day before, shivering in pain begging God to not wake him up when he passed out.
While under reported for obvious reasons, there are usually well over a dozen deaths in Berkeley every year among the homeless. It hit usually in the winter the hardest, when the elderly would die. I'd say it's probably even - the number that get out and the number that die each year. Most are just there, in larger numbers every year, braving the rain, shaking in a torn sleeping bag all night.
The numbers in America are bad right now. I worry for my own future, truth be told. I unwisely left my job a couple months ago and it's fairly obvious that I'm not the only one who needs a new one. But when I read the numbers of those who have lost their job after decades of the same work, when I hear of the 50 year old transistor engineer who stood for hours waiting to get into a job fair, when I see pictures of people loading their truck, it hurts. They don't do well, those. The ones who never spent all night getting high and threatening passerbys. The ones that were decent, if not outright good parents, good employees, good friends. They will not handle well. But we still need a National Endowment for the Arts, a few earmarks - be them for Democratic or Republican districts are more important than that. We still hear that they spend $100 million on a movie in Hollywood as tonight we watch that they will evict 150 people from a tent city by the railroads in San Francisco. A tent city that had a friend of mine in it. I recognized ya Jim, with your head bent down from the camera, smokin' that rollie with the Buccaneers hat. You always said you scanned the crowd shots of those games, to see if you knew anyone on television. I saw you. Good luck my friend.