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Living on the Streets of Oakland

The Great Recession may be over, but every night people are sleeping on benches or in makeshift shelters. Here are a few of their stories.

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Caltrans workers are very pragmatic about the whole thing. They understand there's homelessness, and they're hoping you'll cooperate. They usually give a warning, but I've had experiences of going back to camp and discovering everything missing, including the people. I have to search for them, and bring them to a safe haven somewhere. All my library books, suddenly gone, because Caltrans takes them.

There are different types of homeless people. Many homeless have personality disorders and find it very difficult to be around people or hold down jobs. They have no choice but to be on the streets, because they're ill-equipped to deal with the requirements of life. That should inspire mercy in us, and compassion.

Of course, there are people on the streets who got there because of drugs and alcohol. That is also something that should require compassion in us, because people don't always understand the consequences when they get involved. There are relatively few people who want to be on the streets. I know I don't want to. I'd rather be inside with a nice warm bed, a shower, a toilet, and everything else.

There are many intelligent people on the streets. They have interesting things to say and fascinating personalities. That's what we need to recognize — that these are real people, with hopes and dreams and emotions, just like the rest of us. People have to think it through, and recognize that not everybody is born with the same level of confidence. There are many people out there who need assistance. Why is it such a big deal that we need to assist the weak? Why is that so baffling?

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