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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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The Poor of Our Streets

Uploaded: Nov 10, 2013
Who are they? I see them daily, yet we never talk. Rolling at wheelchair height through our downtown I can't help but make eye contact. Yet that's where it stops. I want to know who they are...or do I? Aren't they part of our community? If so, why do I fear them? I'm not even sure what to call them. Homeless? This may not be accurate. Perhaps better: the poor of our streets.

Often en route to a morning cappuccino, I half collide with a man who sleeps behind the Guild Theater. Perhaps we share a certain bleariness. He is arranging his shopping cart. I am making a hard sidewalk left onto El Camino. At that hour either action takes concentration.

I have never seen his face. He is perennially hunched over his belongings, hair disheveled, seemingly lost in the packing or unpacking of his wheeled belongings. What is his story? Is he one of the nation's many troubled war veterans? Or is he a veteran of something else? After years of such encounters, I cannot say what he looks like.

Except that he looks like he is in misery. Unreachable, seemingly lost. And only a few blocks from my home. And what is to be done about this?

Next time I see this man, I could start by saying hello.

Comments

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Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:54 am

It's perfectly safe to be friendly with most of them. I said "most": that's the problem; there\'s a few that have mental problems or drug habits that may cause them to act out in unpredictable ways. That's why people are afraid. But reaching out to homeless people who aren't a risk may help them feel more a part of the community. If there's a way to be friendly, while not being careless about potential risks, that's probably wisest.


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