Turned On in the Tenderloin

by Iris Freeman  Aug 21, 2013

63695_705880726095817_481111654_nI went out with Fill Up America—OneTaste's nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding the homeless and hungry—on the weekend of the OMX conference and what I saw struck me hard.

We ventured into the Tenderloin area of San Francisco with 500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There were homeless everywhere. 500 sandwiches were not nearly enough to feed the people in the Tenderloin. We only walked a few blocks when I thought, “How could this be!" Just a few blocks away were the buildings of the billion dollar companies—the contrast screamed at me.

What I saw were people wanting to be seen and heard. Granted many are on drugs and do not want to join society as it is. But there are people out there who just got caught up in the finical crash. It's these people I want to help the most.

As our group was handing out sandwiches, we took a picture of this older man laying in the opening of a doorway. A woman that was in a nearby doorway hollered, “What are you doing taking a picture of my father!” She appeared upset because we did not even ask if it was okay to take this picture. What I saw was her fight and her family on the street. She was sitting next to a man that I assumed was her brother. After she expressed her anger, I told her she was right and we erased the picture.

Then I asked her if I could sit next to her. She said yes. I let her know I was Turned On and feeling her pain. I asked if I could give her a hug. I felt her defenses drop and the prettiest smile spread across her face. She said yes again. I looked at the man sitting next to me and saw him smile as well. She then gave us permission to take picture. My heart warmed.

936505_705887396095150_2054798822_nAs I was listening to the woman and her brother’s desires, another man on the street was speaking to our Fill Up America group. He was telling us how the homeless shelters that are supposed to help them had hundreds sitting in chairs with no place to sleep. There was place to lay down and rest—just sit. He told us they needed water proof sleeping bags, tarps, tents, and some kind of shelter; the rainy season is on its way.

I realized, as I was taking in this scene along with the rest of what was happening, that I have a passion to help not only the Tenderloin in San Francisco, but all the homeless and hungry. I would like to start right here in America—the so called land of the free, where anything is possible.

It starts with experiences like this one. Just showing them a little respect, just giving people in need a listening ear. A smile turned them on just a little. I am turned On and it seems to be spreading. Thank you FUA for the opportunity to help even a little bit. Thank you to the homeless men, women, and families that touched my heart. I would love to start giving them what they asked for.