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.

Sharon Prager

San Mateo

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(8) comments


Thank you for writing this. Please know that Life Moves, an organization that works with homeless people in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, has outreach people who continuously connect with folks that are on the streets. It can take many many contacts before someone who is homeless accepts help, including access to shelters, but the folks at Life Moves keep on working to help. The San Mateo Police Department also has officers who are trained to work with homeless folks and they coordinate with Life Moves.


CA Democrats in power have actually increased the homeless problem. It's mostly a problem with addiction and mental illness that they refuse to address.


Mr. Kahl,

Being as you like generalities with no back up information I will give you a couple.

Reagan emptied the mental hospitals and Brown emptied the jails. Neither one is completely true, but you don't care about that anyway.

As for the current problem, what should be done with the homeless? Give them shelter? Help them find work? Get mental health help for them? Put them in jail? All of those things take money. Money you don't seem to care to part with.

Terence Y

Taffy - have you already forgotten about the $31 billion given to criminals via EDD fraud? Or the boondoggle train-to-nowhere sucking up billions of dollars? Who needs Beverly Hills, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Hollywood when you have those CA tourist traps between Madera and Shafter that global visitors must see - so we gotta have that train, right? Supposedly, after all that waste, we still have an $80 billion surplus. Seems to me, we have plenty of billions of dollars to burn on any range of possible solutions, so no more money needs to be parted from us little people. However, you’re free to donate as much as you want to the state of CA. Thank you in advance.



I have said before, if you don’t like it here I am sure Texas will welcome you. BTW, how are you doing with your bamboo fibers?

Terence Y

Taffy, I’m not surprised that when someone calls your bluff, you fold like a cheap suit. Meanwhile, we see that unlike Americans abandoned behind enemy lines by coward-in-chief Biden, some Afghan refugees have now brought measles into our country. Will we see a measles outbreak? And will Afghans take measles vaccinations? Maybe we can bribe them. It’s not like we want to hold them for ransom, as the Taliban are doing with Americans left behind by treasonous Biden. BTW, how IS your panda diet study going?


While the most visible or noticed of homeless people may have mental illness or substance abuse issues, the majority of homeless people do not and they can be, in fact, and are, helped by programs offered by nonprofits. I've personally seen how programs like Hotel DeZink, a rotating shelter program mostly taking place in churches, can help move a person from homelessness to being housed. By wrapping training, holistic services, and partnerships with businesses, organizations like Life Moves help people make the transition into sustainable housed lives. And, again, with continued and sustained contact with those who do have mental illness or substance abuse issues, some of these folks can also be moved from homelessness to being housed and more healthy.


" Honest discussions are hard to have when self interest is the highest virtue."

So true. A societal hallmark?

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