Ed Driscoll

Down and Out in San Francisco

Over a decade ago in How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace),  Harry Stein wrote,”Someone’s going on about how fantastic San Francisco is, and it suddenly hits you that’s one  place on earth you never want to live.”

And you really won’t after reading “Social Work in the Tenderloin Will Kill Something Inside of You,” an interview at a Website called Vice.com appropriately enough, with a social worker who describes that hellish San Francisco neighborhood using plenty of PG-13 and R-rated language:

The first thing is getting through the door at 9 AM. We usually have to step over clients or random strangers passed out on the benches from drinking and/or using since God knows when. The smell is the first thing that hits you—a stench of urine, feces, poor hygiene—it’s really at its strongest in the morning, but you get used to it throughout the day. Then we check our voicemail. Twenty messages from the same two or three clients who either scream their financial requests over and over, simply sit there and breathe, or tell you that witches are under their beds waiting for the next blood sacrifice. Paranoid clients like to fixate on witches, Satan, etc. Anyway, we get ready to open and hand out checks to the clients who are either on daily budgets, or who make random check requests. The budgeted clients are the most low-functioning, as they can be restricted to as little as $7 per day in order to curb their harm reduction. They’ll go and spend that $7 on whatever piece of crack they can find, and then two hours later they’re back, begging for more money. Clients will find some really brilliant ways to beg. When we’re not dealing with clients out in the lobby, which can involve anything from handing out checks to cleaning up blood to clearing the floor for folks having seizures, we’re usually dealing with the government agency assholes over at Social Security. I personally work with around 200 clients, so the paperwork and filing can be extraordinary. My “average day” starts at 9 AM and lasts until 7 or 8 PM.

(Which is a reminder that the UFOs in Zombie’s photo blogs are the functional people in San Francisco.)

The very first comment to the post is a hoot:

I have worked for 20 years in the Tenderloin/SOMA neighborhoods yet I remain grateful to work with this community and am still amazed at the joy and gratitude that I feel each day. I also volunteer at syringe exchange sites in this same neighborhood. You are incredibly judgemental with a total disregard to harm reduction principles. How dare you use terms like “fucked up” and “begging” to describe your clients. I know this work can challenging, frustrating and depressing at times, but this is what being a social worker in a poor neighboor entails. Stop whining and get the hell out of the T.L. so someone warm, kind and generous can take your position. Go find yourself a nice office job in Pac Hts.

Because if there’s one thing that there’s an overabundance of in San Francisco is  sharp-eyed and carefully discerning moral judgement.

(Via SDA.)