Street Life

Homelessness is San Francisco’s most vexing problem. No matter how you feel about it, and regardless of whether you’re fabulously well-to-do or you’ve been (or still are) homeless yourself, it appears that the more attention and money that is put toward ending it, the more hopeless it becomes. Advocates and opponents stand against each other at every turn, ensuring no measure that moves forward can be executed thoroughly. But we are San Franciscans, after all, and we don’t give up on such things. On Homelessness: Two Talks offers two extremely different takes on the issue, each one fascinating in its own way. The first comes from Teresa Gowan, author of Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco. While working on her doctorate, she spent about 1,700 hours with 38 homeless men. She was with them when they set up camps, panhandled, and bought and sold drugs. She accompanied them to emergency rooms, social welfare institutions, soup kitchens, shelters, and parole offices. Some of the men sold things they’d found in dumpsters, while others moved hundreds of pounds of material per day to recycling centers. Gowan’s book details what she learned during her time with these men. This evening’s second angle comes from the Homeless Youth Alliance. The advocacy and outreach group gave disposable cameras to homeless teenagers in the Haight two years ago, asking them to chronicle their lives. About 2,500 photos came back, which form the basis of Through Our Eyes: The Cameras Were Disposable But Our Lives Aren’t. The alliance describes the collection as “sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, always evocative,” and warns that some images may not be suitable for everyone. A slideshow accompanies the talk, and local youth read poetry and perform music.
Fri., April 22, 7 p.m., 2011

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