For those who worry that people around the country travel to San Diego to be homeless, know that I am a native San Diegan. I was born in Chula Vista Community hospital and was raised in the Clairemont Mesa area. I attended Madison High my sophomore year, had some problems in school, and was then transferred to Kearny High to finish out my education. I graduated in 1979.
Actually, I have deep roots in San Diego, wit family history going back over 100 years in the county. My mother’s side of the family helped to settle parts of Julian and Ramona. Pepper Park, located along the harbor in National City is named after one of my grandmother’s brothers. Though my father is from back east, he met my mother while stationed here, in the Navy, during the Korean Conflict. He was taking dance lessons at the YMCA. Mom was a dance instructor there. Shortly after he was discharged, Dad took a job at General Dynamics, Convair, (next to Lindbergh Field). He worked for that company until he retired. As was common for the time, Mom was a housewife. I believe that all took place around 1957-1958.
After graduating from high school I continued to live with my parents until just before my 21st birthday. My father told me, “I looked into it and found that once you turn 21 years old, I will no longer be legally responsible for you. So, I want you out of the house by then.”
I took a job as a security guard, working at the Salk Institute in Torrey Pines on the graveyard shift. Because of the low pay of the job and the high cost of housing, the nearest apartment I could find was in Chula Vista. Still, because of my particular condition and inability to socialize in a healthy manner, within 2 months of moving out of my folks house, I found myself 2000 miles away and homeless.
For the next 30+ years I made Nashville Tennessee my city of residence. While there I experienced several separate episodes of homelessness – amounting to about 15 years of living on the streets. Most of that time, I lived in homeless shelters. I spent some time living in halfway houses and in homeless facility “programs”. I have also slept in alleys, slept in cars, (when I had cars to sleep in), couch surfed, etc. During this time I also spent a couple years in the Navy, attempted a year of college, worked in construction and in retail, and tried my hand at photography.
In 1988 I met a young lady – a local girl who knew nothing of homelessness. She helped me to get off the streets and within a couple years we were married. We had two children and eventually bought a house. Our divorce was finalized in December of 1995 and I returned to living on the streets.
In the late 90s, while still living at the local rescue mission, I tried my hand at homeless advocacy, publishing a homeless newspaper called “HomeWord” (the pun was intended). Although I was only able to create two issues of the paper, I had learned a good deal about advocacy and met some key people working with homelessness, such as Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for Homeless and Tim Harris of the homeless newspaper, Real Change, of Seattle.
By then I had become know, at least in the homeless industry circles of Nashville, and a little bit on the national level. I have been involved in several different advocacy activities, including the Homeless Power Project, the Nashville Mayor’s Taskforce on Ending Homelessness, and the Metro Homelessness Commission. I have also given talks at churches and universities in the Nashville area, including several times at Vanderbilt.
In 2002, I began writing a blog about my life and experiences with homelessness, which I continue to work on. As a matter of fact, you are reading that blog right now 🙂
I have recently returned to San Diego, for no other reason than I wanted to return home, and that I want to live out the rest of my life here, in the place of my birth. Homeless advocacy is what I know, and so I will continue with it as I live here.