On the weekend of September 29 – 30th, 2012 hundreds of concerned locals and involved citizens descended on Liberty Station in Point Loma to participate in the annual Sleepless San Diego 2012. The event's ostensible purpose: to raise money and awareness for the plight of homeless men, women and children. Benefitting outreach programs under the auspices of the San Diego Rescue Mission, event sponsors included dozens of local and national organizations and businesses.

While San Diego is home to over 10,000 homeless men, women and children not one of them is allowed to participate in the event. The sponsor goes to great lengths to assure participants they will not be forced to rub shoulders with any actual homeless persons. To be sure, select homeless representatives were present giving speeches and attempting to impart some measure of education to the pampered attendees.

Amenities described on the event website included portable restrooms, private security, paid parking, and a first-aid station along with a protected, well-lit, fenced in location. Minimum age for participation is five years-old.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world for the homeless if they had such minimum amenities available to them? A secure place to sleep, a clean bathroom, available first-aid? Wouldn’t it be nice if not one four year-old had to worry about being homeless?

Don’t get me wrong, as a homeless person myself I truly appreciate everything and everyone donating time, money and effort to aid those less fortunate. What I don’t appreciate is the bizarre, arrogant assumptions about homeless persons. One of the biggest problems facing the homeless is the perception by ‘normals’ that homeless are somehow sub-human beings not deserving of simple dignity and respect. How ironic, then, that those whose stated purpose is aid and support of homeless don't care to rub shoulders with any of them in the real world.

It’s something I see everyday: the sideways glances, the grimaced faces you think no one sees, the snide remarks made under your breath. And those are only the benign indignities we face from our fellow citizens. Homeless are often victims of much more malignant forms of ostracism and denigration ranging from shouted curses to violent conflicts. No wonder some homeless respond to confrontation with violent reaction. What it boils down to is fear. Fear of strangers, fear of the unclean, unwashed masses.

If you attended Sleepless San Diego 2012, I thank you for your contribution and your desire to help. But don’t think for a minute what you experienced at Sleepless San Diego bears any resemblance to what being homeless is truly like. It was a campout, a lark with friends and family. Do not leave that event and think life for the homeless isn’t so bad after all just because you had a good time on a sleepover in your pampered, antiseptic, gated enclave of privilege.

Even in sunny San Diego, being homeless is no picnic.


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