Hardworking San Francisco native becomes homeless

When people think of the Bay Area’s housing crisis, John Harris might not seem like a face of the homeless, but he is. 

Harris is an employee of the City and County in San Francisco. During the day, he works full-time for the city's San Francisco Human Services Agency in the Otis Street garage inspecting vehicles. 

At night, he doesn't go home, because he doesn't have a home. He sleeps in his truck. 

"I've been living in this truck for well over two years now," said Harris, "I get to work at 6:30 in the morning and I get off at 3 p.m."

Harris is a native of San Francisco, California, who says he was raised near Chinatown. He says before his city job, he'd worked in corporate security until his mother Alberta Harris got sick.

"I took care of my mom for 8-9 years and um, she passed away," said Harris, "So I applied for Social Security and they said, you have to apply when you're 62. You're 59." 

He went on food stamps and became homeless, trying to apply for jobs. 

Harris says when two city workers hired him for part-time work, he was grateful. He thought life would get easier, but it hasn't.

"I'm doing good and everything. I got a really good job, I got a good position. I just don't have a place to live. That's my problem," said Harris, tearing up as he stood in front of his truck. 

Harris says he's been living in homeless shelters, rotating through long waiting lists. 

"I'm on the list right now, I'm 1,100 or something like that," he said.

He says he's also tried to get a low income SRO single room occupancy housing unit but was rejected.

"I just applied for one. They told me I make $100 too much, so I can't move in. If I try to get help from a social worker, they say, oh, you don't have a criminal record, you're not disabled, you're not a drug addict," said Harris, 60, saying he's also been told he is not old enough to qualify for senior programs. 

So after his city job he goes to a local church and volunteers by mopping the floors, cleaning, and helping out at the church food pantry.

He speaks some Cantonese from growing up in his old neighborhood, so he uses that to interpret for people who come to get food. 

In return, he says the church lets Harris sleep in his truck in the parking lot and use the restroom.

"I thought if I worked for the city and county I would for sure have a place to live," said Harris.

He remains hopeful there will be some change to the housing crisis, or he'll be able to find a place to live. 

He figures he could pay up to $1,300 per month for rent, but so far, he's had no luck finding a unit for that price range.
So for now, the daily struggle continues for this native son, homeless in his own hometown.