Andrew Rucker, 27, waits on Market Street near the Civic Center Bart station for Walgreens to open as part of his typical morning routine. Rucker has been homeless and addicted to heroin since he was 18-years-old when he was kicked out of his house and disowned by his father for being gay. He spends most of his days wandering throughout the Tenderloin and SOMA districts of San Francisco, talking to acquaintances throughout the neighborhood and looking for ways to secure his next dose. I spent a few weeks with Andrew during March of 2018 and learned how his past familial traumas and consistent sense of social isolation seemed to be the leading factors that fueled his drug addiction.
Andrew’s morning start the same way each day. He tries to always have some narcotics to begin each day and says it’s difficult to get up and start the day without a small fix. Here he prepares a small dose of heroin after waking up at his encampment which is situated near the I-280 freeway in the SOMA district of San Francisco. Every day begins with a dose, but he always makes sure to save enough to get him through the afternoon.
Rucker checks his syringe before injecting his first dose of the day.
Sleeping locations change frequently for many people who experience homelessness in San Francisco. One reason, among many, is due to a fear of conflict with other individuals living on the streets. Another reason is a fear that workers with Department of Public Works will seize and discard any belongings they come across at encampments when they receive complaints from residents or business owners about the homeless. This motivates some people to isolate themselves further in order to avoid potential conflict with city workers or others. Here, Rucker checks to make sure there is no traffic before leaving his road side encampment on his way to the neighborhood methadone clinic. He changes the location of his encampment every few days.
Rucker stops at Carls Jr. in Union Square to eat before going to the local methadone clinic. It’s noon and he’s injected two doses of heroin so far today. Here, he thinks about what the day has in store for him as he explains his plan to pick up his nighttime dose after going to the methadone clinic.
Rucker takes a moment to rest in the Tenderloin before heading back to his encampment to prepare his afternoon dose of heroin. It’s been a handful of hours since his last fix and says he’s beginning to feel ill.
Rucker tries to locate a vein in his calf in order to inject his afternoon dose of heroin. He has a fairly thorough schedule to ensure he doesn’t find himself without any narcotics at any point of the day.
Rucker sits outside Walgreens on Market Street waiting for a Western Union confirmation code from his mother. He reaches out to his mother, who occasionally wires him money through Western Union, when he runs out of money. He says his mother is unaware of what he uses the money for, but knows she hides the fact that she is in communication with him from his father.