To begin the new year with service, The young adults and adults gathered bright and early at one of the Young Adult’s homes to participate in the breakfast service for our homeless brothers and sisters, This was on a Sunday January 8th. We met around 5:30 am and begun cooking soup and burritos, we targeted for about 54 burritos and finished the preparation by 7:30 am.
Our Sai sisters picked up the best vegetables and cook from scratch to give healthy food truly following Bhagwan's command “When you give to others, you must ensure that the quality of what you give is something you yourself would enjoy”. The plan was to reach the destination San Francisco downtown by 8am and back by 10am. Apart from handing out food, we would try to spend time speaking to the homeless that we serve. Most of the time, they are ignored by the passers-by and are tired of feeling alone.
So, after praying to Bhagwan, 4 of Sai brothers drove to the destination and distributed all the 54 burritos and hot soup to the needy. As it was a chill morning, they relished the Soup and also the burrito. However, during this service activity an interesting conversation happened between a Sai Brother and a homeless brother on that day, a text of which is shared below - (this is about the lottery system that the homeless people have to go through to be sheltered):
Bob: Originally from Guatemala, Bob lived in Houston, Texas for a long time and is a permanent resident. He lost his blue-collar job and soon after, lost his house and car as well. He googled and found out that San Francisco is the friendliest place for homeless folks. So he caught a bus and came here by traveling for 5 days. Every day he spends his afternoons in the library preparing for interviews. He was very happy to receive vegetarian soup - he is a Buddhist but forced to eat non-vegetarian foods in the shelters since he doesn’t have alternatives.
He told us a lot how shelters work and why people prefer living on the streets:
Most of the folks who live in shelters have their own groups. There are frequent fights between groups. If you go to the shelter for the first time, you can definitely expect some sort of physical or verbal abuse. That’s the reason people gather friends and they stay on the streets occupying some corners so they can be safe. There are different gangs or groups both in the shelters and on the streets. The police know where people are sleeping and are cool with it; however, they come by in the mornings around 6 AM and shoo away all the people who stay in front of important buildings and tourist areas.
Most of the people in the shelter need psychiatric help. The shelters are able to help them when residents inform them of their needs, but many don’t know that they suffer from mental illness. Therefore they don’t know to ask for help and are unable to get proper treatment. Shelters don’t do enough to improve their way of life; all they provide is food and a bed. Bob thought it would be good if shelters help in finding jobs. He states that currently their life is like a circle: if they win the shelter lottery, they get food and a bed for 90 days, after which they are on the streets again. According to Bob, their lives are completely dependent on a random algorithm that the computer uses to identity the people who get shelter.
Bob’s story really touched one of our Sai brothers, who is here in the US on a non-immigrant working visa (H1B). He finds parallels in the ‘random’ computer algorithm that grants people visas and the algorithm that grants homeless people shelter. Many people in other countries dream of winning the H1B lottery and starting a better life in the US. For people like Bob who are already in the US, they dream of winning the shelter lottery to get food and a bed.
His interactions with Bob inspired all of us to reflect, “The irony of life is that we forget to thank the Lord for these basic things that are easily provided to us. Bhagwan has been kind enough to guide us to talk to these people when we attempt to serve them in some way! So that we know and understand how grateful we have to be to the Lord for the lifestyle we have but at the same time pray for these people who have been suffering on the streets.”