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Permission granted by author for anyone to distribute this
writing free of charge (including translation into any
language)...under condition that no profit is made therefrom,
and that it remain intact and complete, including title and 
credit to the original author.

Ezekiel J. Krahlin

(A True Tale From The Castro. Eat your heart out, Armistead!)

©1998 by Ezekiel J. Krahlin

The following letter was sent to various newspapers
throughout the San Francisco area):

September 23, 1998

Dear Editor:

World class city? San Francisco? Homeless, vulnerable women
raped on a regular street urchins viciously bashed
and abused...elderly vagrants tottering to their deaths in our
gutters and alleys. World class city, or world class sick

I am ashamed of my adopted city of 25 years, of my whole
country in fact: for this waste and torment of the less
fortunate members of our human family spreads from sea to
shining sea...and is completely inexcusable because it can be
easily resolved. Anyone who tells you it is a complex issue
difficult to cure, is either an outright liar, or hopelessly
deceived. (We are the only remaining western democracy without
universal health care, and a safety net to keep you housed
between jobs.) It is only the lack of compassion that keeps
the homeless homeless, and nothing else. Well, perhaps
something else: the sadistic pleasure of seeing our miserable
downtrodden wandering the dark streets like cockroaches, as
seen from a lofty penthouse twenty stories high. It gives some
affluent citizens a certain glow of pleasure and sense of
achievement; as perverted as that may be.

There is a gentlewoman in the Haight/Ashbury suffering a form
of palsy...she cannot walk except at awkward angles...and when
she falls, she cannot stand back up without the kind
assistance of strangers (if such is available; otherwise she
remains sprawled on the concrete). I understand she has been
taken advantage of at least several times, since she showed up
on our streets some months ago. You know what I mean:
men--very ugly men, but still men nonetheless--rape her at
their whim. (And I wouldn't be at all surprised if these "men"
have homes to go to.) One shudders to think this goes on all
the time throughout our nation...for it is highly unlikely
this devastated, sweet soul is the tragic exception. Why the
hell does this city, this country, even allow such people to
go homeless, foodless, and friendless?

On Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, I encountered another homeless
woman, elderly and of slight build, who keeps to herself,
communing with her imaginary friends (or perhaps her guardian
angel). Whenever I approach her to give a dollar and a kind
word, she leaps back in fear, as if I were about to do
violence. I wonder why that is? Could it be, perhaps, that the
American heterosexual male is such a dangerous and predatory
creature, as to cause such terror in women exposed to the
streets? I'm afraid this is the case, sad is it is...and being
a male myself (though gay), I am perceived as a threat, ipso

It is one thing to give no assistance to those on the streets
who seem fit in both body and mind...but to even permit the
obviously helpless to live in such pathetic and cruel
conditions is both heartless and unforgiveable. To whom should
the finger be pointed...or the hot potato passed? Where,
indeed, does the buck stop? If we really would like to join
the humane (as opposed to "human") race, and want to attain
the genuine status of "world class"...then I suggest we cease
acting like barbarians, and start adopting our less fortunate
street denizens, in any and all ways possible. Until we do the
right thing, the noble thing, we will remain, in truth, "no

Surely, many of us have the money, if not the time, to provide
supplies of basic medicines, food, clothing, kind words of
support and encouragement, and even shelter to our worst off.
It is obvious our present charities aren't doing enough (well,
when you consider the recent abandonment of the Salvation Army
from San Francisco, over an issue of gay equality, one must
conclude that some charities are intentionally not doing
enough)...and perhaps we should look to our own selves for the
needed resources. Perhaps local community enclaves scattered
throughout the city can pool the materiel required to provide
the less fortunate with the constant care and respect that
will, eventually, liberate us into the status of humane-ity.
For I am not so worred about the spiritual state of our
disadvantaged...for they are clearly with God already; they
are His blessed children by default.

But I am worried, and quite intensely so, for the souls of
most of our citizens who live in affluence, thanks to their
own good fortune and connections. Do not for even a moment,
tell me those with homes and good jobs, have earned these
things through their labors alone...for that is a mean-
spirited, conceited attitude, as well as downright wrong.
There will always be a certain percentage of decent people who
fall through the cracks, so long as society, which has created
these cracks in the first place, maintains them. And, I assure
you, most people in the streets are decent. Of course, there
is always the occassional rotten apple...but they exist in all
classes of people, and this fact has nothing to do with being
homeless. It is my belief that a society is a doomed society, 
which does not make the well-being of all its citizens a top

How old is the Biblical story of Job? Two or three thousand
years? Yet have most of us applied the lesson taught by that
important book? Indeed, the moral in The Book Of Job is just
as timely today, as it was when first written many, many
centuries ago. Job suffered terrible misfortunes and
illnesses, which even his closest friends and relatives could
not explain away, unless (they concluded) he committed
grievous sins that God could see, but not they
villified him, and left him with neither friends and family,
nor a roof over his head. Eventually, however, Job was
vindicated as totally fact, as one of the most
saintly people to ever exist! Thus, when we regard the
homeless as scum, we are treating them exactly like Job:
judging them with no qualification to do so. And in so doing,
we are guilty of a great sin: hubris.

Had I the provisions, that palsied woman mentioned above
would already have a roof over her head, and help with other
needs. However, I am disabled myself, and live in a single,
small room...and cannot possibly provide for her needs. I can
only lend her a kind word out on the streets, and a dollar or
two from time to time. I have, however, adopted a homeless
person who is gay, like me...and who is not so bad off that
he, with some assistance and moral support, is likely to land
a job within a few weeks. His name is Tony...and like so many
people on the streets, he has a sweet nature and a strong
will, and is a hard worker to boot.

And herein is another issue I want to raise about the gay
community; at least those with decent homes and income. Where
is our outreach to our own lesbian and gay homeless? I see
very little of it...and what I do see is mostly packaged with
ulterior motives for sexual favors, with toxic substances such
as alcohol and hard drugs forced on these innocents (who are
peremptorally kicked out the next day, and left in the gutters
worse off than before). Surely, we who espouse "pride" in
ourselves and our community, for our gay heritage, can do a
lot better than the present sad situation.

But until such time, if ever, that more San Franciscans (and
Americans in general) do the right thing by our less fortunate
citizens, I will remain: ashamed to be gay, ashamed to be a
man, and ashamed to be a citizen of our unfair, undemocratic,
and (dare I say it) un-American, land.


Ezekiel J. Krahlin