Helping Your Neighbors

It doesn't happen often, but this weekend we were really impressed with humanity at large. For all the griping and sniping at each other people do, we were as surprised as anybody, but happen it did.

Here's the story.

There's a longtime, beloved Haight Street local. Let's call her Natalie. Natalie has been living in the neighborhood for decades. And when we say "local," that isn't a euphemism for living on the street, if that matters: she shops at Amoeba and the Booksmith, hangs out in the neighborhood and has lived in San Francisco all her life. She is sunny, bright, one of the nicest and most generous people you'll meet; she's one of our dearest friends. We happen to know her through the Booksmith, where, of course, we also work.

Natalie is also estranged from her parents, and she's also developmentally disabled. She ran away from home in her teens, went into foster care briefly and ended up with her caretaker, who she's been living with for more than thirty years. This year her caretaker was diagnosed with cancer; for a month now, he's been in the hospital and unable to pay their rent.

So, last week, she was about to get kicked out by her landlord for being behind on the rent. After hours on the phone and trips to the VA hospital to visit her caretaker, her friends at the Booksmith realized that the only way to keep Natalie (and her extensive record and comics collection) at home was to raise rent, fast. So they set up a Chipin account on Friday morning (we know it's legit: we started it) and spread the word that Natalie needed some help.

In 24 hours, they raised over 2 months' rent, overshot their initial goal and were able to keep Natalie at home long enough to figure out what to do. A handful of lawyers offered their help, pro bono, and people from as far away as Berlin, Germany heard about it, walked into the book store and handed over their money to a stranger to pass it along to Natalie. (It turns out the internet really works.)

We're honored to live in a place where this kind of thing can happen, and to have you all as neighbors. We'll see you on the street.

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