Friday, December 23, 2016

Ah, the joys of another holiday season.   The time of good cheer, and helping out your fellow man.  Joy to the world, and all that lovely dribble.

You ever see one of those people that just can't put a grin on their face during the holiday season.  One of those people that the term  'Merry Christmas' is a personal slap in the face. One of those people that, from their earliest memories, Christmas and the holiday season stood for  more fighting, more yelling, more broken bones, more reasons to just go hide and wait for the season to pass.

Ever wonder what it's like to be the person behind that face, in the picture above ?  To be that person, and wonder why the holiday festivities missed you.  Why the holiday season delivers heart ache, loneliness, and bitterness. Fortunately  it'll pass,  the season is almost over.

One of the true holiday movie classics  'It's A Wonderful Life', has a scene in it, just before Jimmy Stewart meets his gaurdian angel.  Just before Jimmy Stewart dives into the half frozen river.  You know the one. That's what Christmas time brings to so many. but it'll pass, January is only a few days away.

I once had someone tell me  'oh you're not forgotten', in response to a sign I was flying.  Try my shoes on, and tell me if they're not those of the forgotten.  No, I'm not forgotten in the eyes of the government, as long as I'm willing to go sign up for welfare, put my hand out, and say  'gimme'.  Yeah, it's just the usual holiday doldrums, it'll pass....  Spring is only a couple of months away.

So, when one sees the eyes of the person that the holidays have missed, be aware, it'll pass.  I ask for nothing, I expect less, and I'll make do with what I've got.

No Merry Christmas, No Happy Holidays, No seasons greetings.....  You enjoy your festivities,  and remember.....   It'll pass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Outdoor People, Bicycles, and Coffee

Take a walk through one of your local parks where some of the homeless hang out.  I’m betting you’ll see a quite a collection of bicycles.   Many aren’t going to be in very nice condition, quite possibly a lot like their owners.   Quite a number of them would probably fall into the  ‘at least once stolen’ category.   This is not to say you won’t encounter a nice bike or two.  I speak from experience on all categories.

Yes, I have been one of those people sitting in the local park,  watching the world go by, wondering how I lost my place on societies Ferris wheel, until  I  got to the point where I realized,  homeless doesn’t need to mean down and out.   Yes, one can be homeless, sleeping in front of old abandoned businesses, and still get up and contribute to society on a daily basis. 

In the time that I’ve been a member of the homeless community, I have had a couple of bicycles that were in bad condition, usually right after having had a bicycle stolen.  Bicycle theft in many cities is rampant, and unfortunately, the bike thieves seem to enjoy targeting the homeless community.  It’s easy to steal a bicycle while someone’s sleeping next to it, I guess.  I do prefer to have a nice bicycle; it’s a taste I acquired many years ago.  I have gone from being a fan of high end bikes, to a national level competitive cyclist, to the owner of trash bikes.  At one point in my life, while living in a small studio apartment, I had an even dozen bicycles, mostly high end Italian hand built bikes.  When you have a DeRosa hanging from your living room wall, with another DeRosa in the kitchen, when a duo of Colnagos in one place or another, it’s very easy to become jaded when it comes to bicycle quality.  These days, I’m down to one bike, that I try to tell people its trash (so as not to give any bike thief ideas). 

Stolen bikes in that group of two wheeled machines in the park?  Oh yes.  I’ve even had one of my own bikes recovered by a friend that found someone sitting next to in a park.  The friend told the thief, “I know who that belongs to, I’m taking it, you can let it go with no harm done, or you can’t contest the issue, get a beating, and then be without the bike”.   Needless to say, I got the bike back later in the day.
I’ve seen very high end bikes come past me, usually in the hand of one of the drug addicts.  Two instances come to mind….   A strung out junkie rolled up to me on a  Litespeed, asking what I thought of the bike.  I told him, “nice stolen bike, take it back where you got it from”.    On another occasion, saw a very nice classic Masi roll past.  Mentioned it to a friend, and they told me on one day ‘oh I know who that was, it wasn’t stolen’,   then a few days later heard back from the same guy  ‘know that Masi, it had been stolen’.    Yeah, bike thieves are scum.   Bike thieves that prey on homeless bikes is even more repugnant, at least to me.

This might lead to the question:  Why is the bicycle per capita with the homeless community so high?  Mobility to put it simply.  When you’re regularly on the go, be it to simply find a bathroom, or to find a meal, rolling on two wheels is a lot easier than two feet.   Sometimes, having a bicycle is a hindrance.  Security is one of the reasons.  Is it safe to lock up your bike where you’re going?   Beyond any doubt, the most important accessories for the homeless person with a bicycle is the bike lock.  Again, it’s the bike thieves that make things difficult.

Next thing that one could wonder about:  What about bicycle maintenance and repair?   In this city, as long as I’ve been living on the street, there’s always been a shop that’s very sensitive to the needs of the homeless and their bikes.  The past few years, bike co-ops have started to spring up with more frequency.  One shop that comes to mind tries to supply bikes to homeless persons, once they have put in some sweat equity.  For maintenance of bicycles, this city also has a fairly new bicycle co-op, where homeless persons can come in, and for very little, perform repairs on their bikes, or be taught how to do repairs.

About me, you ask?   My name is Walt.  I live in San Jose, CA.   I’ve obviously got some experience with bicycles.   These days, I pay my bills by busking.  I’m a street musician, playing in various cities in the area.  When I’m not out making music, or sitting at a computer terminal typing away, I’m one of the volunteers at the San Jose Bike Clinic.  A bicycle coop shop.  We are a fiscally sponsored project of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, which makes it possible for us to teach people how to work on their bikes, or to allow them, with minor donations, use our tools and work stands, which we are very grateful for the Bicycle Coalitions support.  I have been a member of the homeless community for a bit over eight years, having come from the tech sector, where I worked as an analytical systems engineer form some twenty-five years.    I don’t ride much anymore, as my legs don’t allow it, but I will always have a spot in my brain when it comes to cycling and bicycling related issues.

P.S.  I use the term ‘homeless’, but the term that would suite many much better.  ‘Outdoor people’ In San Jose there is a group called  “Hope For Outdoor People”.  I believe it was their founder that coined the phrase  ‘Outdoor people’.   I really don’t mind being referred to as homeless.  Many people are surprised when they find out that I am homeless, as I try to keep myself presentable.  Call me an ‘Outdoor person’  or  ‘homeless’.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016



The attention that some of my recent rants have received, a few people have suggested that I address some of the current issues facing  San Jose and it’s homeless community.  I have also been asked by a friend, via a FB message what I think, so here goes.  

San Jose made big news a number of months ago when the infamous  ‘Jungle’ was shut down.  I for one never set foot there, though I did see the videos later on, documenting the conditions that were found there.   I found them absolutely deplorable, and I for one endorse and applaud the city for closing down the jungle.

The idea of having a city endorsed homeless encampment is nothing new.  I think it would be a grand idea, but there are so  many snares and pitfalls to doing so, that I see any attempt would likely turn into another  ‘Jungle’ scenario.  

If I may be so bold, let me walk the reader through what I see as some of the problems, and in a few cases, possible solutions.

Location.  I’ve seen areas in San Jose that are virtually un-used, that would make far better locations that what some would prefer.   St. James park is an absolute ‘No’ in my book.  Behind city hall I think is a bad idea also.   What would work best would be an open area, away from the areas where families with young children should be free to run and play.  No well  manicured parks should be used for this (read  St James Park).  My suggestion would be, there are a number of areas to the west of downtown, under the freeway overpasses,   that are in general use now, and could very well be good choices.

Sanitation:  Keeping the place clean, plain and simply.  This includes policing the area for trash, debri, and other items that belong in a dumpster.  If you have seen the videos of the jungle, that is precisely what should not be avoided.  More importantly than trash, debri, and ‘what have you’ is human waste issues.   If you have an encampment, that is being littered with human urine and feces, this is just begging for the breakout of disease and plague.  Solution: This one is fairly easy, portable toilets.  Sure, you can expect them to stink, and to be absolutely horrible to go in to after no more than a day or so.  This is where the portable toilets would best be placed near the closest possible road access, so a ‘sugar truck’ could have easy access to them, for their daily (or semi daily) cleaning.

Security:  This is the tough one.  You know for certain that these encampments are going to attract a certain criminal element.  Gang bangers, drug dealers, the mentally ill, and just the general belligerent and hostile members of the community.  Would I suggest a constant police presence, No.  I think one of the solutions is to have appointed  ‘keepers of the peace’.  How exactly?  Don’t know.  I do believe that  I think there should be a very low tolerance for infractions of the peace.  Zero tolerance? No, not in most cases, I don’t believe.    What would be tolerated, would need to be addressed,  and how ?  Legal substances I would think would need to be tolerated, as long as it’s only in the direct vicinity of the users  immediate area  (read: inside their tent(s) or within arms reach of the area they’re inhabiting.   Therefore, no keggers, no standing about passing the bottle around, no smoke outs.  Simply,  use what you like, as long as it’s legal, and you keep it to yourself.   Illegal drug use I think should have a much lower tolerance.  Crack, meth, etc….   I believe the tolerance level for this should be absolutely zero.  How to enforce this ?  Don’t know.

There are just so many variables in this scenario that I think it would be an issue that would need to be addressed in a  case by case basis. 

I also believe, that as soon as any encampment becomes another  ‘Jungle’, that it needs to be shut down immediately. 

I’m certain that this subject should be open for debate,  for refinement, but should definitely be addressed soon,  so that the homeless community would have a place to go, with no fear of being rousted on any given night at  3 AM.

I do speak from first hand knowledge.  I am one of the member of the San Jose homeless.  I consider myself  ‘comfortably homeless’, and in general I don’t  ‘camp’ with others, as I have space issues, so I don’t really know that I’d join a  homeless encampment, but it would be nice to have that option.   I have often thought I would be best served by having a  Yuka tree out in the middle of the Mojave, where my nearest neighbors would be the occasional snake or rabbit.

If you wish to email me and tell me that I’ve got my head planted firmly up my south  side, feel free.  If you with to email me and debate these issues, I’m open to that also.   If you wish to email me and tell me I suck as a writer, save your time, I already know that.

Walt Hansen

San Jose, CA

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Hi there....

First off, let me say to those that read the last blog, and turned the whole thing  semi-viral, my heart felt thanks.   The whole  'Super Bowl Party in San Jose' never materialized... The rest of the free world say  'San Francisco Super Bowl', where San Jose saw  San Jose Superbowl....   No dice San Jose,  the people went the other direction.

So....   Wanna know what the  MLK library is going to do for the homeless community now. I guess I used the wrong word there..... not  'FOR' the homeless but  'TO' the homeless.

I have it on pretty good authority that coming soon, to an entrance at  MLK library will be a box.  Sort of like those at airports.   Does your carry on fit in this box, Ok fine.  If it doesnt, please check it.   Now the MLK approach will be slightly different.   If you have a bag, as ALOT of the homeless community do, your bag will be subject to the  'Does it fit in this box' test.   Doesn't fit ?  Get out!

Yup, if you are in the faction that lives out of a bag, don't expect to be able to go into MLK library. Now I do understand where a ruling like this comes from.  It wouldn't take one long, while wandering around in the MLK library, to see a few different people that have mounds and mounds of 'things', that are piled up behind or next to them.  Some of these 'things' you would probably want to keep a distance from, be it either the aroma, or concern about having one crawley thing or another jumping on to you or your belongings.

This is where it should be requried of the security personel to understand that there are grey areas of some issues. If a business person comes in, needing to do some emergeny work on a computer, and has a tote behind, with various work essential materials, are they going to be stopped and told to leave them elsewhere....   I doubt it.      If I go through the front door, and need to sit at a computer for an hour or so, to take care of personal items, am I going to be allowed through the door ?  Nope.

It's time to work a bit smarter, than harder.  Know who and what the issues are and address those.  Know and recognize who and what the problems are not, and let them be.

I've talk with security in the MLK library.  I understand there are times where these rules are required.  There is a   'no food' near the computers policy.  Not open food, ANY food.  If you have an sealed package of anything that's digestible, and a member of the MLK security recognizes it as such, you are subject to immediate expulsion from the library....   A bit over zealous, no ?    I understand that if you have some enormous bag, thats blocking the aisle way, or has 'creepy crawlies' jumping off it, then yes, that bag should be pointed out to it's owner, and asked to remove it, for the sake of everyones health and well being.

My bag ?   Here's a pic....   a 65 liter bag, with sleeping bag attached....  Bag containing three flutes, a change of clothes, hygeine supplies, and on occasion, a bit of food....  show here inside the MLK library

Come on, San Jose, and MLK library....    This isn't rocket science.   Recognize the problems, and address them, don't just throw a massive blanket over something, and say 'anything that lies within this, is  no longer tolerated'.    It's just not that complicated.

So, feel free to comment on this, or email me, or tell me I've got my head up my ascii....     Just don't tell me because I live out of a backpack, that I shouldn't be allowed to use a public library.

Best regards,
Walt Hansen
San Jose, CA