In San Diego, you see homeless people sleeping at the beach, sitting on almost every street corner, and standing in the middle of the lane with signs asking for help and money.
In Denmark, we don’t really have homeless people and the homeless people we have often choose to be homeless themselves. This could be because they don’t want to be a part of the system or because they have a drug or alcohol problem.
A Danish survey from 2017 showed that we have around 6,635 homeless people in Denmark, and I just read an article from the San Diego Union Tribune saying that there were 9,116 homeless people in San Diego County in January this year. As a perspective, there are about 3.3 million people living in San Diego County and the population of Denmark is 5.7 million people.
Growing up in a country where homelessness isn’t really considered as a problem, it is really shocking to move to a city that has more homeless people that we have in all of Denmark.
As I told you in one of my first columns, we pay a little less than 50 percent in taxes in Denmark, and for that money we get free healthcare and free school. The money we pay in taxes also makes sure that if people lose their jobs, or can’t pay their rent, they can get money from the state. Therefore, you can always get help and don’t have to be homeless.
When I first arrived in the United States, I had a hard time not giving all of my money away to the people in the street, but I soon had to realize that I couldn’t help all of them.
On one of my first days in San Diego, I met a guy at a bus stop in Pacific Beach on my way to work and I ended up talking to him for a while. I asked him where he lived and he said that he lived close. I asked him where he worked and he said all around. He said thank you for taking my time to talk to him and then I stepped into the bus. I thought for a second that is was weird he didn’t take the bus with me, but then I didn’t think about it more that day.
A couple of weeks later I met that same guy, who was lying on the sidewalk. I smiled at him, he looked down on the ground, and suddenly it occurred to me that the guy I had been talking to was homeless. It never occurred to me that he was homeless while I was talking to him ,and I think he liked it that way.
I think I will always remember the feeling I had seeing him again that day and it is in situations like that I miss Denmark a little bit.
Mathilde Rousseau Bjerregaard is from Aarhus, Denmark. She is an editorial intern with San Diego Community Newspaper Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.