The title is blunt but I really did not know how to soften it. I really do not like it when I see/encounter homeless people on BART, whether they are using BART as shelter/bed or asking passengers for money.
Why don't I like it? I think we, as passengers, pay a good amount of money to get to our destinations by BART. We don't expect BART to be spotless, with great service, or luxurious (we really just expect BART to be on-time, safe and not filthy), but most of us really do not want to be bothered or threatened by unauthorized people like the homeless.
I'm not heartless. I recognize that homelessness is a huge problem in SF and I wholeheartedly support some of the initiatives like SF Homeless Connect. But I don't want the homeless seeking help/shelter on a BART trian, or even a BART station!
Why not the homeless? Because 99.99% of the time, they smell like alcohol, urine, defecation, trash or sweat...or all of the above. The majority of them that I've encountered on BART are mentally unstable. Today, one homeless man somehow snuck onboard and was aggressively asking people seated in my area for "some help". He didn't take no for an answer. If you ignored him, he kept on asking you until you look at him. If you said no, he doesn't leave either and starts to question if you have pennies, nickels, dimes..etc. Even as you say no or you don't have change, he continues to shake the cup in front of your face. Worst of all, he smelled terrible!!! The fact that he stood next to you and refuses to leave only meant that we had to endure his smell for a long long time. It was bad....I had to breath with my mouth and even then, I was afraid of what type of taste his scent would leave in my mouth. It was an extremely heavy odor.
I used to give money to homeless in the station, on the train or on the street. But I'll tell you what changed me! I had volunteered in two SF Homeless Connect days in the past. What is so disheartening is that the homeless attendees don't go to the job or self-help stations, instead, they just want to rush to the freebies line where they can get donated packages of items from snacks, socks, shoes...etc. I understand they need those items, but there are so many resources there for them to actually get out of the condition that they are in PERMANENTLY! Most, I observed, did not even stop by the job or self-help lines. While I still believe in the Homeless Connect Days, I learned that most homeless people don't want to help themselves long-term. In fact, one good example is the same homeless man sitting in front of 8th/Market Starbucks....it's been over 2 years and he still asks everyone coming out of Starbucks for change.
What is BART doing to help keep homeless people out of the trains? I can understand that keeping them out of the stations is nearly impossible to do, but what about the trains? How do they sneak through the ticket gates? Why can't train operators see them on video and ask a police officer to kindly remove them? Maybe they do that already but some still slip through.