Anonymous donor reaches the Coastside’s homeless with small, but significant, gifts

By on Thu, February 19, 2009

Russ Bissonnette has been given a mission—distribute $50 bills to the Coastside’s homeless—by a generous Coastside woman who wants to remain anonymous, reports the County Times.

That’s how the Coastside’s Santa Claus started walking around with rolled-up $50 bills in his pockets and making regular trips to places like a liquor store and a Rite Aid where he knows homeless men sometimes hang out.

He hasn’t given it all away yet — a testament to how hard it can be to locate homeless Coastsiders, who often sleep in encampments far from the downtown core, along the Coastal Trail, or in cars and shacks in the industrial zone of Princeton-by-the-Sea.

Isolated as they are, they can’t access employment training, shelters and other services offered by the county on the Bayside. They don’t panhandle, they keep to themselves, and they rely on food and clothing provisions from Coastside Hope, a charity that serves low-income coastal residents.

Not surprisingly, they proved especially hard to count during the biennial San Mateo County Homeless Census, held on the coast in late January. A team of volunteers went out at 4 a.m. and counted only 24 people and a scattering of encampments, vans and cars.