Edward Smith may or may not be dead, but this is his obituary. People in Noe Valley, San Francisco knew his first name, as he sat on plastic crates outside of Walgreens on Castro Street. He attended Castlemont High School in Oakland, worked as a cook, was blinded during a robbery. Couldn’t stand anymore, his spinal column knocked out of place by a car while he was selling the Street Sheet. He may or may not have been married, but he lived with a woman near 6th street. Years ago when he first started to sit, ask for money, he’d sing, loved BB King. I met him later, when all he said was, anything, anything will help. Before he disappeared, Edward was in and out of the hospital, would get shivers, was always cold. Before he disappeared, I helped him get on the website HandUp, where he raised money for eyeglasses, a motorized wheelchair, and food vouchers. Before he disappeared, the good people of San Francisco clicked buttons, donated money, sent him messages, well wishes. After he disappeared, my kids asked me, is Edward dead? I said, I’m not sure, but maybe. The truth is I will never know, we will never know, we San Franciscans. We drive by them, walk by them, see them, blanket covered cadaver-like bodies on the sidewalks, in doorways, strewn out on the grass in front of City Hall. The named and nameless Edward Smiths of our city, the ones we ignore as we type into tiny screens, cradling our lattes. Edward Smith may or may not be dead, but he certainly lived, like so many still do, starving, struggling, alone.
To learn more about Edward, please visit: https://danielwpolk.org/2016/05/22/edward-and-handup/