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Obviously Not Homeless: Writer Goes "Undercover" in Shelter

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Preamble: SFBG writer Amanda Witherell recently got down homeless style over a five(ish) day tour of San Francisco's shelters; this is a post about her story, which ran today. Yes, homelessness is a huge problem in SF. Yes, we wish that our fair city could get it together on that front. And yes, we commend her for doing the Upton Sinclair thing— good collegiate effort, very informative indeed. However, there are several unwitting moments in her dramatic account, "Five Days Homeless: The Memoirs," that proved just too much to pass up.:

· Witherell on securing a bed for the first time:

The woman behind the counter wants my “last four.” I have no idea what she’s talking about. She clarifies – of my social security number. “I don’t think you’re going to find me in the system,” I tell her. · Witherell on being unable to secure a pass for late check-in:

I tell her I have an all-day conference tomorrow and can’t get back here by 6 p.m. for curfew. I still can’t have a late pass. · Witherell on missing her shelter reservation later in the week:

Well, I blew my bed at Sanctuary last night, but I gather this happens all the time. I got out of work late and friend I hadn’t seen in a while was hosting a party. I actually ended up falling asleep on the couch, exhausted from a lack of sleep in the shelters. So, I didn’t make it back to Sanctuary and lost my seven-day bed. · Witherell on breakfast:

Breakfast: a bowl of grits and three boiled eggs. Nothing for the grits but sugar, powdered milk crystals, salt, and pepper. I’ve tried to avoid the word “Dickensian,” but what would you call it? · Witherell on mistaken identity:

I was concerned that I’d have to somehow prove my need, state my case for a bed, but there have been no questions about that. The inquiries come from other clients in the shelters. Two have asked if I was a cop. I’ve been mistaken as an employee a couple times. Most other shelter residents aren’t satisfied with pat answers about my situation – they want details because they want to help me, give me tips, make sure I’m on my way toward something better.· Five Days Homeless: The Journals [SFBG] [Image courtesy SFBG]