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In My Experience: Homeless in the Bay Area

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A homeless encampment in San Francisco's Mission District. (Photo: Eric Lawson/San Francisco Public Press)

Over 6,600 people are homeless in San Francisco, according to a 2015 count by the city. That includes not just people living on the streets, but those residing in shelters, cars, and other temporary locations. As part of Forum’s “In My Experience” series, and as part of the SF Homeless Project media collaboration, homeless Bay Area residents take us inside their day-to-day lives and share some of the personal stories behind the statistics.

Left to right: Jackie Juarez, Pastor Elaine Amos, Harmonie Taylor, and Mark
Left to right: Jackie Juarez, Pastor Elaine Amos, Harmonie Taylor, and Mark (Amanda Stupi/KQED)

Interview Highlights

On Moving Somewhere More Affordable

“We tried to get out of San Francisco. I would love to get out of San Francisco. But outside of San Francisco, the places are starting to get expensive too. Because they know people are trying to leave San Francisco to find affordable housing, so for them to make money they’re raising their prices.” — Pastor Elaine Amos

On the Stress of Being Homeless

“Are we going to wake up in the morning? Are we going to get shot through our tent for being homeless? Are we going to wake up in the morning and have to move our stuff? It’s very, very stressful every single day, every minute being out there.” — Jackie Juarez


Mark, has been homeless for about a year; currently lives in his car

Jackie Juarez, homeless; currently lives in a tent

Pastor Elaine Amos, homeless; currently lives in the San Francisco's Navigation Center

Harmonie Taylor, homeless student; currently sleeps on friends' and acquaintances' couches


“I cry every night. It stresses me. I deal with a lot of pregnant girls and I cry to see them out there and to see people getting killed, the homeless dying. I talk with them constantly and it’s overwhelming. I cry myself to sleep wishing there was just something that would fall out of the sky where I could just help everyone.” — Pastor Elaine Amos

On What Services Should be Provided

“Psychological services and the opportunity to be able to make money, and if they could somehow lend money to get a deposit down on an apartment.” — Mark

“They definitely need more transitional housing, for youth, coming basically out of the system or foster care or whatever the situation is. They hit 18 and basically the only option they have is homelessness.” — Harmonie Taylor

“When they come out and try to get you to move, have a solution, a place for you to go.” — Jackie Juarez

On Police and City Officials

“Being homeless with the police was horrible, it was very, very horrible. I would have nightmares worrying about the police, about taking my things. They would come hit on your tent.” — Pastor Elaine Amos

“It was DPW. Them and the San Francisco Police Department had taken everything we own… from our medications to our clothes to our cooking, our food. Everything. We were left with nothing. … An officer the next morning, after they came and realized we had slept on the street, with no covers, no blanket, nothing, an officer did give us $20 and told us to get something to eat.” — Jackie Juarez

Harmonie Taylor
Harmonie Taylor (Amanda Stupi/KQED)

On Talking to Kids About Homelessness:

“Yesterday, there were five little boys and they were staring at us and their mom told them, ‘Don’t look at them, they’re homeless; don’t talk to them.’ And I spoke up and told them, ‘Yes, I am homeless, but we will not hurt you.’ And the little boy started talking to me, asking me how I ate and how I did it, and I started showing them my stove, little things that I do.” — Jackie Juarez

“Let them know we’re people too. We have children too.” — Pastor Elaine Amos

On What People Should Know About Homelessness

“You don’t have to look a certain way or be a certain age or be on drugs to be homeless. Homelessness can happen to anyone.” — Harmonie Taylor

“They need to come out and see what’s really going on, instead of sitting in their big glass houses and labeling us all as drug addicts. Come out there and spend time with us, really talk to us, see what’s going on, see the kind of hardship we’re having. Stop trying to put us down, because you never know. You can have all this one day and anything can happen where you can lose it all. It will be gone and you will be right down there with us and we will be the people who are going to help you.” — Pastor Elaine Amos

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