They come out of crevices and corners — gray figures with their bundles and baskets scurrying to the next unknown place of solace.
It’s the end of the week before a long Labor Day weekend in San Mateo and I’m driving to a drugstore on El Camino Real.
San Mateo’s homeless or otherwise displaced wander in an area where we’re told the median household income is $150,000 and an average home is $2 million. In such an atmosphere the homeless mostly try to stay hidden.
But not always.
On the drive back someone is lying in the middle of an El Camino lane wrapped in a brown blanket either ill or asleep. Traffic stops and kind souls call an ambulance in an effort to help.
Compared to some areas of San Francisco and San Jose that rival descriptions from 19th century novels, San Mateo’s dispossessed seem small in number and unless obvious in their neighborhoods, not enough to disturb residents.
Those concerned don’t want to see fellow human beings without housing, health care and sustenance. Perhaps even more disconcerting is recognizing their lives and plight as symbols — as a failure of policies and attitudes that serve everyone. Honest discussions are hard to have when self interest is the highest virtue.