On Wednesday, more than 1,100 homeless people lined up at Golden Hall downtown to receive haircuts and foot baths and to have conversations with people who might be able to find them housing and other help.

Liz Hirsch, a newly homeless woman we met in December, was one of them. She didn’t enjoy it. She wrote me that afternoon and explained why she hasn’t been emailing as frequently: She pawned her netbook.

I asked her what made her experience so rough. She said it was many things, compounded:

Ok, that’s a whole story. I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t have breakfast because the past week or so the shelter has had only stale pastries for breakfast, even for the kids. No cereal or oatmeal (once we had oatmeal) one morning we had only chocolate cake, no kidding, kids going to school on chocolate cake, no bagged juice and snacks like they usually get. So I was hungry and tired. When I got in I was interviewed and then stood in another line, then another. I understand the need for the lines, but the volume of people overwhelmed me. Another shelter friend left with me. She is hispanic and got scared during the interview, about the questions.

A man said there would be tons of free stuff for us, but I have too much stuff now. Starbucks and the buses I ride can’t take all the stuff we homeless carry around. So many people talked about the free apts and clothes etc. I just wanted out. I Understand finding a quiet corner and disappearing from sight. I just started crying. I think it was a cumulative thing.

Hirsch wrote at least a couple of these emails on an iPad she borrowed from a friend she’s made at Starbucks. She commented on the photo at the top of this post, taken by Sam Hodgson.

Sam got a great pic of all those homeless at the civic center from the top of a building. So now see all those lines of people? We don’t have to like them, BUT see the potential. Like the government has finally started hiring hackers to stop hacking, use all of the energy, knowledge of how to scam the system or sell stuff or collect cans for hours, etc, and use this somewhat perverted knowledge and energy to good use. When I was waiting in line watching and listening, I thought what an unrecognized well of potential. These people sleep on cold concrete in the rain for (heaven’s) sake, that’s a kind of endurance that should be used by society.

Later in the day, she read a letter from one of our readers, Shannon Biggs. In the letter, Biggs mentioned that reading Hirsch’s stories had softened her view of the people who live on the streets in her neighborhood, East Village.

But it’s still hard to blend in when you’re toting the amount of stuff Hirsch mentioned. (This is some of the impetus behind the check-in center, run by the Girls Think Tank, where homeless people can leave their belongings for the day. More from CityBeat.)

On Thursday, Hirsch came to a realization that a Starbucks manager saw her as one of those homeless people:

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

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Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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