A homeless guy on the bus told me that the Tenderloin wasn’t something I can’t handle. I asked him if it was like Hell’s Kitchen in New York, a bad part of town in the eighties but it’s all cleaned up now. Homeless guy told me that he was from New York and really, I had nothing to worry about from the Tenderloin.
I was bored after Japantown and decided to take a walk to South of the Market. A bit of a bust. Nothing there. So I kept walking till I hit the Tenderloin — 6th, Market, Taylor, and Golden Gate — sometime around dusk.
Shit. It was like a giant refugee camp. There were homeless people everywhere. There were old chinese ladies scrounging garbage dumps for food. Different people with different disabilities — lame foot, cataract eyes, schizophrenia — kept coming up to me. I have not seen the level of human desperation since I left Macau. Actually, Macau was never this bad. People came to for change, for cigarettes, for food.
One even asked for the pizza crust that was in my hand. I don’t eat pizza crust, so I gave it to him. He was really grateful… for pizza crust. All the homeless people here are really really desperate. One old woman followed me for four blocks asking for change. When I said no, she asked if I wanted a “date.”
I saw people huddling together trying to get warm. A few had very clearly passed out. This is not a good place. It wasn’t so much as it is dangerous; The panhandlers are persistent, but ultimately fearful of tourists. For a vacation destination like SF, I don’t suppose the cops take it too kindly to travelers getting mugged. It doesn’t seem like panhandling is a lucrative here, as it is in Toronto. Worse still, I noticed that many of the homeless people on scooters are Vets… America really has serious problems.