By Tom Hunter
I spent five years living in vehicles at the beach in San Diego.
I knew the cops, I knew the dealers and I knew the homeless.
I was upper class, because I managed to hang onto a vehicle. I made gas money by driving a hooker to her johns. I was elated when the courts told the SDPD to stop ticketing people for being on the streets. (The police have decided in practice that court order no longer applies).
Here’s how it goes down. The homeless get a ticket. They don’t go to court. They have a warrant issued. They are arrested and jailed. They learn from their fellow inmates how to steal, how to use stolen credit cards, and how to get along in jail. It would be much cheaper to send them to San Diego State, but that’s not going to happen.
My favorite SDPD unit is the HOT Team. These are Homeless Outreach cops that go around in a big utility van. If they find someone who wants to go to a shelter or rehab, they tell them to meet them a certain spot at 9AM the following day. Sometimes the cops don’t show. I know. I tried twice. I was there one time both times.
Now many of the homeless could use some serious mental health help. Many are drug addicts. Many are both.
I’ve got a question for you. If you were on the streets, with no hope, would you lose your mind, start taking drugs or all of the above? The homeless drinkers are not much different than the sheltered drunks.
Many of the homeless are devout Christians. “ Pie in the Sky when you Die.”
Some are quite accomplished musicians. My friend Sky wrote a song about being homeless and sang it the San Diego City Council. They were impressed. It was a haunting song about being haunted by the police.
There is a good friend of mine that has lived on the beach in her Ford van for ten years or so. For the years that I was on the street she supplied me and about 50 others with clothes that she collected from Buffalo Exchange and other places. She is a sincere Christian and puts up with people that would scare you or me big time. She’s old enough to collect Social Security and young enough to skate and dance with joy and elegance.
San Diego is rightfully proud of their new permanent homeless shelter. It holds on the order of 200 people or so. But there are another 8,000+ homeless that are not going to fit in there. Chances are good the other 8,000 are not going to be sheltered in this lifetime. They are in many cases not going to have a place to shit or shower. And they are going to be in your life, whether you have to step over them or not.
There are wonderful ladies of the Catholic Workers and the Methodist Church that help feed and clothe the homeless every week. Some can even find a hot shower now and then.
The department appointed by the City of San Diego to deal with the homeless is the Police Department. They have no tools to help the homeless. But they have plenty of tools to hurt.
My godfathers family lived in Sacramento. During the war, my godfather ( in his 20’s) was imprisioned in a CAJapanese war camp. The US took away everything, including his family farm and property. and there were moved in to a Japanese war camp in CA. He continued to go to medical school during the day and he had to return to the camp after classes. He never harbored any grudge about what happened to his family or himself. He said, that was the way it was, then. He practiced family medicine in San Diego the rest of his life. He took care of the poor. If they did not have money, that never stopped him from taking care of his patients. He said he became a doctor to take care of people. One of my brothers quit his job with a union and refused to take a job for less pay. He said he was “worth a higher wage” at any job. So he hung out with his like minded friends, smoked weed, refused to cut his long hair to fit in for job interviews, and moved back in with our parents for a few years. He complained about not having a job worthy of his “skills”. He refused to take any jobs. My godfather shook his head when he heared my brother complain and he said to him, “there is ALWAYS a job if you do not complain.. about the wages:.. My other brother worked, spent his money on booze, slept in his car or on the streets and then did the cycle over and over again. He told me he chose to live the life he did and in spite of having his ex raise their son, he lived, homeless. He said he did not expect anyone to subsidize him in any way. He worked enough to stop and party till he ran out of money. I know many cities have types of HOT teams and seasonal shelters. The cities are lucky IF they have the funding to have this available. And lucky of they have staff to handle public safety and help the homeless with resources. I pay taxes and I am thankful for what we do have with so little money for our community services. This is tough economic times. I myself worked 3 minimun wage jobs to raise my children without support, I had no choice of pay or dream jobs, but we made it and they are doctors now. We all made our own choices. I hope those that are mentally able to, do so.
John Lawrence says
I slept in my vehicle for two separate periods of approximately one year each. It was a Ford van and set up like a camper so I was comfortable. I went to work every day at which time my sleeping vehicle became my working vehicle. I only got rousted by the cops a couple of times so I had pretty good luck and slept well most of the time. In the morning I went to the Y, did my laps in the pool and showered. At night I used the WiFi at the San Diego State Library or read till it was time to pull in somewhere and go to sleep. I scouted out my parking places very carefully. They had to be flat, and there had to be other vehicles around so I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. I kept in touch with my customers by cell phone. It really was more like “distributed living” than being homeless.
Tom Hunter says
dani, thank you for illustrating the consciousness of America. “Why don’t these people just snap out of it and get a life”. No matter how hard you struggled you had somethings working for you – your goals and your mind. Some people, unfortunately have neither.
Thanks for the response. I myself did a bit of couch surfing, slept in garages for short terms, even my old babysitter’s couch. This was when I first divorced my kids father when they were toddlers, and then again ,post 2nd divorce after my kids were grown. I did not tell anyone. I was too ashamed. I had a cell phone and my family never knew. I knew I got through worse things in my life. The kids dad( first x ) stalked me and our kids and I could not get any help from the courts. It was not “bad enough”,. according to the courts. It WAS. I am not the only one to be willing to literally loose it all and had NO support from my family..as I was leaving someone that would take care of me. I kept my stuff to myself. My parents thought I was nuts for leaving someone.. based on their own poor uneducated backgrounds, I knew, I wanted my life better.. so at a young age, at 22, I went through the worst time in my life. I did not whine (no time and why?? ) no pity party, I just bucked up with not even a car, any clothes, furnishings, money or family support. 3 jobs, a bus, bike or hitched to my jobs to make ends meet. I never let my kids know the ugly times, nor did I pretend all was just fine. Just that, we will keep moving forward and I never blamed anyone. It was the way to do this for my kids and for my attitude to move through. They lived an economic thin life with me but learned by watching me. They had odd jobs sine jr. high, for their own spending money.
Several times a year, we donated what we could gather from friends and drove to the homeless lots downtown. We left clothes, toiletries and non-perishable foods for the homeless, on tarps, so we could give people privacy and space. As we drove off, we could see the people watching out care leave. We wanted them to have dignity in accepting what we had to leave and we certainly did not want any credit.
I took my kids friends with us to join in the giving to others for the purpose of helping the less fortunate. I am so proud to say all of the 5 kids, are now grown. All graduated with advance college degrees and all volunteered the rest of their lives and never considered anything different. All of us are richer in many ways for it. We know that we once were at the edge of what could have been, living on the street IF we did not make good choices. I later wrote state legislation to help others 100% out of my pocket.All unfunded to help others after us. I had no self serving goal. I/ we were all past, the past, but to know I did something to help others, help themselves at no cost to anyone by my pre-paid phone cards to fax my letters of bill support in my so called free time. I felt blessed, knowing something good came out of a situation for thousands. I am not a front and center person and I do know, if I could get way up from zero and no support, I do believe most people can do that, if they try. Each time I see a homeless person, if think, for the Grace of God, go I. My brothers made their own choices. As well as many people. I understand people with mental disadvantages may not have what it takes and I have always volunteered to do my part, this is in addition to working and yes, paying taxes. If I had money, I would spend my life doing what I love. Continuing to do more with my accidental journey of drafting state legislation to make it easier for people to help themselves. I know it sounds like a lofty, impossible goal .But I did it, over and over so many times, I no longer felt I was lucky. I feel, I learned how to do something on my own and was amazingly successful. Though it still is amazing to me that I was able to navigate the unknown. I wish everyone felt an ounce of self belief to get to the next step. I focused on helping others, my kids and in the process myself and others. Thanks again. I usually do not comment on articles, but this article of what is missing for the homeless, got to me
Tom Hunter says
Beautifully said, these are the stories that reach out to people’s hearts. You are a part of a silent army that do what they can with what they’ve got and seek not one word of public comment. Thank you for you.
bob dorn says
Being an ex-Catholic about fives sixths of my life has prepared me for a certain amount of what’s called in the religion “the mortification of the flesh,” a principle that says we must not let physical comfort become so important to us that we forget what matters most.
I’ve walked in the mountains for two weeks, and played college football, and covered the police department honestly… but I don’t think I could survive being homeless. I have only the greatest respect for those who do, even if many are insane or criminal, and even greater respect for those who routinely help their brothers and sisters.
Frank Gormlie says
Have you biked recently? Care to comment?
Dean Edward Thompson says
Please Help. When you come upon a homeless do what you can for that person. Even words of encouragement can help. lift someone up don`t push them down. Most people aren`t looking for a hand out. they are looking for a hand up.
Tom Hunter says
If you haven’t already, check out the different comments about the same article in the OB Rag.
Tom Hunter says
Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act AB-5 Homelessness (2013-2014)
(a) In the State of California, there has been a long history of discriminatory laws and ordinances that have disproportionately affected people with low incomes and who are without homes, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
Look what snuck through the California Legislature in June. This is freaking news if you have no roof in your life.
(c) Today, in the state, many people are denied the following:
(1) Housing due to their status of being homeless, living in a shelter, a vehicle, the street, or the public domain.
(2) Employment due to their current status of being homeless or living in a shelter or a vehicle on the street.
(3) Housing and employment as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address or having a post office box as a mailing address.
(4) Equal protection of the laws and due process by law enforcement and prosecuting agencies.
(5) The ability to make certain purchases or enter certain contests as a result of not having a fixed or residential mailing address or having a post office box as a mailing address.
(6) Access to safe, clean restrooms, water, and hygienic supplies necessary to maintain health, safety, and dignity, especially with the proliferation of closures of public restrooms.
(d) Homeless persons are unfairly targeted by law enforcement, often resulting in the violation of homeless persons’ constitutional rights. Lacking the resources necessary to obtain adequate legal representation, homeless persons are often denied relief or damages through the courts.
(e) Homeless persons rarely have access to shelters, and when shelter is available, its conditions can be so poor as to jeopardize their health and physical and mental safety.
(f) Homeless persons are often forced to separate from loved ones, give up their personal property, abandon pets, and make other inhumane choices in order to access even minimal shelter.
(g) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer individuals often are forced to accept inappropriate or unsafe accommodations to access publicly funded emergency shelters.
(h) Children in homeless families are denied the ability to continue receiving education in their preferred school if their family’s shelter lies outside the boundaries of their former district.
(i) At the present time, many persons have been rendered homeless as a result of a deep and prolonged economic recession, a severe shortage of safe and affordable housing, a failed mental health system, and a shrinking social safety net.
(j) Section 1 of Article I of the California Constitution provides that “[a]ll people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”
(k) Subdivision (a) of Section 7 of Article I of the California Constitution provides, in part, that “[a] person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws… .”
(l) Concordant with this fundamental belief, a person should not be subject to discrimination based on his or her housing status, income level, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship, or immigration status. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to protect the rights of all Californians, regardless of their housing status, and to ameliorate the adverse effects of homelessness on people who have no home and on our communities.
The homeless have been handed a page explaining their rights under the new law at a feed given by the Catholic Workers at the Presbyterian Church in Pacific Beach. Now somehow we have to get word to the San Diego City Council and the San Diego Police. The City Council has just passed further laws to push the homeless in vehicles farther into the bushes.
(a) The existence of homelessness requires that fundamental rights that are amply protected in the home and in private places be extended to the public domain to ensure the equal rights of all Californians, homeless and housed. Every homeless person in the state shall have all of the following basic human rights and legal and civil protections, except when prohibited by federal law:
(1) The right to move freely in the same manner as any other person in public spaces without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless.
(2) The right to rest in a public space in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless, as long as that rest does not maliciously or substantially obstruct a passageway.
(3) The right to eat, share, accept, or give food or water in public spaces in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless.
(4) The right to solicit donations in public spaces in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless.
(5) The right to the same protections that law enforcement agencies afford any other person, including, but not limited to, the right to reasonable protection from assault, domestic violence, sexual assault, or robberies.
(6) The right to rest in a public space, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents, except that law enforcement may enforce existing local laws if all of the following are true: (1) the person’s county of residence maintains 12 months per year of nonmedical assistance provided for in Section 17000 of the Welfare and Institutions Code for employable, able-bodied adults without dependents who are compliant with program rules established by the county, including work requirements; (2) the locality is not a geographical area identified by the United States Department of Labor in accordance with Subpart A of Part 654 of Section 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations as an area of concentrated unemployment or underemployment or an area of labor surplus; and (3) the public housing waiting list maintained by the county contains fewer than 50 persons.
(7) The right to engage in lawful self-employment in the same manner as any other person, including, but not limited to, the right to seek self-employment in junk removal and recycling that requires the collection, possession, redemption, and storage of goods for reuse and recycling, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless.
(8) The right to pray, meditate, or practice religion in public spaces in the same manner as any other person, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents because he or she is homeless.
(9) The right to decline admittance to a public or private shelter or any other accommodation, including social services programs, for any reason he or she sees fit, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest from law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents.
(10) The right to occupy a motor vehicle, as defined in Section 415 of the Vehicle Code, or recreational vehicle, as defined in Section 18010 of the Health and Safety Code, either to rest, sleep, or use for the purposes of shelter, provided that the vehicle is legally parked on public property, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest from law enforcement, public or private security personnel, or BID agents.
(11) The right to confidentiality of his or her records and information by homeless shelters, medical centers, schools, or any other publicly funded human service provider to law enforcement agencies, employers, or landlords, except that the records or information may be disclosed if the disclosure is based on appropriate legal authority. Disclosure of an individual’s records or information shall not be allowed unless the individual received oral and written notice of the legal authority to disclose this information and the individual’s right to opt out of having the records or information disclosed.
(12) (A) The right to assistance of counsel, if a county chooses to initiate judicial proceedings under any law set forth in Section 53.5. The accused shall be advised of this right to counsel before entering a plea, and any waiver of this right shall be explicit. If the district attorney’s office or its agent is representing the state in any part of an infraction proceeding, the accused shall have the right to assistance of counsel with regard to that infraction.
(B) The county where the citation was issued shall pay the cost of providing counsel under this paragraph.
(C) This paragraph shall not be construed to eliminate any protection or right to representation available under Sections 5365 and 6500 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or any other provision of law.
Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself. While Washington DC can’t get out of its own way, and San Diego can’t get Carl DeMaio and Doug Manchester to let the law be enforced, the California State Legislature has been doing good. Godsmacked.