You know him. You have seen him on Valencia and 16th streets, calling out,  “Spare change, spare change!”

Kurt Scott is 73, and he’s been blind since getting glaucoma in his 40s.  At the end of each month, once his disability check has been spent, Scott goes to the corner of 16th and Valencia to panhandle. If he’s lucky, he gets enough for a couple of beers and then he goes home and watches television. That, for him, is a good day, he said.

Scott was born in Idaho and adopted — it was his mom who picked him out. His dad picked out his sister, and then his new parents drove them home to Twin Falls.  His father did a variety of jobs – butchering the deer hunters brought him and helping to run a poultry farm and a grocery store. They had a three-story building with two big giant lockers where his father kept the frozen meat. “It was a big deal,” Scott said.

Original reporting takes feet on the ground, support Mission Local today. 

Scott’s passion turned out to be music, so he moved to San Francisco and earned a bachelor’s degree in music. He taught piano, moved furniture and liked to party, but then, he says, AIDS got a lot of his friends.

In his 40s, he was on the bus headed home from a music lesson and he started blinking. Before he knew it, his vision was gone – first from his left eye and then from his right eye.

It’s been 30 years since that night. Nowadays, he has a boyfriend, Emilio, who lives with him but stays with his friends in the Tenderloin.

As for Scott, he lives on disability and his income from giving piano lessons. He is the master tenant in an apartment and manages that as well.

He says panhandling gives him a daily fix of humanity. “Everyone knows me here,” he said. “It’s really fun. If I didn’t go out there, I’d probably feel pretty bummed at home.”

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16 Comments

  1. Beautiful piece, Stefania! I’ve encountered Kurt In the neighborhood (tho never actually seen him panhandling) and he’s always been friendly and positive – a very kind soul. Your cinematography and editing has really captured the spirit of this good man. Well done!

    1. I think George Kurt Scott is pulling your leg about panhandling.

      It’s true that he’s always broke before the end of the month but I live right next to 16th and Valencia and I’ve never seen him standing anywhere and certainly not on that corner.

      I’ve escorted him home a dozen times and I consider us to be buddies, we have paid for each other’s lunch twice in a restaurant and I enjoy teasing him by insinuating every time I see him that he is coming out to cause trouble.

      One time when he found himself next to a couple of men who were arguing, the uncle of one of them came out of a house across the street and fired a shot that hit Kurt in the leg.

      1. No 100% true, Pillon. I’ve only seen him out there a few times over the years, but I’m at work during the day. I gave him $2 there on Saturday. I asked if he was short on rent (a couple months ago he got burned by a scammer and was asking for help on the corner) and he said he just wanted a beer and a little ice cream and his monthly money had run out. He’s a legend and the hood has his back. I’ll just buy him the beer and ice cream next time. I can get behind those vices.

      2. Hello all! I am Kurt Scott’s niece but haven’t heard from him in years. Does anyone know how to get in touch with him? The last phone number I have for him is disconnected. We used to email each other but I haven’t heard from him in a long time.

        1. @Candace Are you in SF? Otherwise it’s going to be difficult. No one practicing good digital citizenship is going to provide info to an internet ‘niece’ even though you are probably totally legit.

          1. @Albionic – No I’m in San Diego but I totally get what you’re saying. Maybe if someone runs into him, they could tell him his niece is looking for him. You never know!

        2. Candace, your uncle George Kurt Scott’s pone number is 416 606-33ONE7 but I haven’t called him in several months because I often run into him on the street.

          1. Thank you so much! I just got off the phone with him. This article brought us back together. Thank you everyone!!

        3. Would like to get in touch with Kurt Scott if Candace or Albonic read this can you pass on the information Milton would like to speak with him. I worked with him many years ago. Thanks, Milton

  2. Ran into him some years ago at CMC.
    Offered up excellent tips on playing the hard stuff I still use to this day.
    Really kind, gentle human being.
    Thank you.

  3. Perhaps a Go Fund for him would be helpful or a restaurant that has a piano he could play & earn $,hopefully he can get assistance. Thanks

    1. Why? The parade of soulless millionaire techies that walk by ignoring him wont even be bothered to break off a shard of BTC in person.

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