San Francisco is widely recognized as a gay mecca—a city where an LGBT person can find resolve in a community where being gay is accepted as part of the norm.
This was the mindset of Bobby Spencer, 47, who moved away from Atlanta, Georgia, on a search for a community which would be more receptive to his orientation.
Under the impression that he had secured a job as a nanny, Spencer moved to the Bay Area in May, excited to start his new life. “Being gay in the South is still a lot different than being gay here, even in Atlanta,” Spencer said, as reported by ProjectQAtlanta. “I moved here to be queer, that was part of the plan.”
However, when Spencer’s job didn’t work out, his notion of a queer life fell to the wayside as he found himself jobless and homeless.
Without an income, Spencer was no longer able to afford his HIV medication, causing his viral load to skyrocket. While adequately medicated, his disease was under control, but without the aid of medication, the virus took a serious toll on his immune system.
Spencer turned to San Francisco’s infamous LGBT community for resources, but had no luck in finding any; he soon found that his homelessness was a huge road block in finding adequate help.
“It’s a mad, cold world out there, even in your own family,” he said. “My own community treats most queers that are homeless as pariahs; they want nothing to do with them.”
Spencer eventually found a clinic where he was able to receive his medication and a shelter where he was able to reside. He has enrolled in cooking classes and has been getting by with the help of food stamps.
Although Spencer has a roof over his head, shelter living is not easy and requires street smarts and active alertness. Spencer explained that on his first night sleeping at the shelter, the man next to him became abusive.
“It makes you anxious and it makes you nervous to have things like that going on and knowing that it’s absolutely being directed at you,” Spencer said.
As reported by San Francisco’s biennial homeless count, approximately 7,000 people are homeless in the city and nearly one third identify as LGBT. Reports also indicate that 40 percent of the LGBT homeless are youth.
Co-founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance in San Francisco, Brian Basinger, expressed that being homeless and LGBT is a more difficult existence–as being gay adds on an extra stigma.
“[Homeless people] do not have a lot of status in society to begin with, and so the way they protect or generate status in these social environments is to step on the queers,” Basinger told the New York Times.