February 4, 2020
Gilles Desaulniers moved to San Francisco 40 years ago, settling in the ‘friendly, quaint and affordable’ city after running out of cash while driving from Canada down the West Coast of America.
Today he runs a grocery store filled with fresh fruit, vegan snacks and organic wines typical of this famously liberal Californian city.
But Gilles has shut one outlet and would sell up entirely if anyone wanted this one, his remaining shop.
Each day, up to 30 people stroll in and openly steal goods, costing him hundreds of dollars.
He has been bitten twice recently by people in his shop and he also found a woman turning blue in the toilet after a drugs overdose, a hypodermic needle still stuck in her leg.
He showed me a metal door that is corroding due to people urinating in his doorway, then spoke of finding a man relieving himself in full view of infants playing in a child centre next door.
‘Our society is falling apart,’ says Desaulniers.
‘If people do not play by some rules, society does not function. But it feels like there is no order, there is no shame.’
He uses two apocalyptic movies to illustrate the state of his adopted city: ‘Living here feels like A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner have both come true.’
I could grasp his despair. I had just passed dealers selling drugs beside a police car parked outside government offices, and seen their customers openly smoke fentanyl, an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, then collapse on the street.
This article was posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 4:54 am