Editor,

I am writing in response to Kevin O’Brien’s letter where he said that many of the homeless people living on the streets are mentally ill — in other words, giving your readers false and misleading hope that homelessness is something that only happens to the les miserables of society.

What he is saying is irresponsible and very dangerous because why should I worry about ending up on the streets if I’m not a drug addict or a mental patient? Why should I waste my time doing at least the very basic research as to how you get a bed in a shelter or what storage is and how it works if “it’s never gonna happen to me?”

When I became homeless it wasn’t because I was a drug user — it was because I couldn’t afford our apartment in Daly City after my parents died. And during my two years as a homeless person, I’ve met tons of people like myself — former upper-middle and middle class who were crushed by their medical bills or became disabled or lost a job. I hate to be the one to bring Mr. O’Brien back to reality, but there is no guarantee (especially during and after COVID) that tons of people are gonna become homeless through absolutely no fault of their own. We need practical down-to-earth long-term solutions — not people giving their vulnerable neighbors false hope and misleading information.

Tatiana Lyulkin

Burlingame

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(1) comment

craigwiesner

Thank you for this! The homeless people who are most noticed, I think, are those who are suffering from mental illness or substance addiction and that can give the average observer the wrong impression. Having worked as a volunteer with a local agency that has been tackling homelessness for decades I can tell you that the vast majority of the people we served are exactly as you described, people who through difficult circumstances are not able to find and maintain stable housing. With help of organizations like Life Moves in Santa Clara and San Mateo County, a huge majority of those who accept help eventually are able to be housed. Folks with mental illnesses and problems with drugs and alcohol are harder to help because they need to be ready and thank goodness organizations like Life Moves keep going back to them to offer that help until they are ready. Thanks for sharing your story!

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