Everybody in America has a skill of some kind, whether it be painting, plumbing, doing paperwork, doing bookwork. You offer me a place to live and a place to take a hot shower. I’ll work. You don’t have to give me shit. Just give me a little bit. Give me a place to pull myself up. I can go out and get a job, but who’s going to hire me if I can’t take a hot shower every day and I don’t have a place to keep my clothes? So instead, I’m down here getting harassed by the police. They say I’ve had one too many beers, and they want to run me through their system check for warrants. To me it don’t matter. I got a criminal record. I did 5 years in the federal penitentiary. So I’m gonna suffer the rest of my fuckin’ life for it even though I paid for my crime. And that’s over 15 years ago. I’m 39. Am I still going to play their game? I don’t think so. I don’t stand on the corner. I don’t panhandle. I panhandle from my friends. I don’t stand on the corner with a sign. If somebody’s got a job for me, I’ll do it. I’ll work. Give me a five-dollar-an-hour job. They should put a huge wall up at the border. Maybe then I’d have a fightin’ chance at a job. These guys are workin’ for three dollars an hour. I watch America send billions of dollars every year for overseas foods. So they will drop 10,000 pounds of food over in Guadalupe, but do you think a homeless person out here is gonna have a chance to get a half-eaten doughnut? And as far as the merchants’ association, they can kiss my ass. Who do you think baby-sits the Christmas tree every year and the sand castle? Homeless people. Who else is out here 24/7? I don’t see any of the rich people on the hill comin’ down and givin’ up their time. They are not going to leave their house, put down the remote control and watch the tree so their family can come down and enjoy it. You think we get any respect? No. We get a ticket.
Rudy — Age: “I think I’m 42; I worked it out the other day”
Q How long have you been homeless?
A Five years.
You’re gonna trip on this one! Guess what happened to me out on the cliffs. I saw an extraterrestrial craft, like, in 1995, and this thing came up to me and zapped me, like, with some sort of energy. I tracked it down on the Internet to see what it was. What I came across were people, like, with these crop circles, formations, something, and I came across a video of the same type of energy ball, or whatever, making crop circles on the Internet. So I copied that. Now I just kinda keep my ear to the ground, see what’s goin’ on. Right now I have an ssi case pending to get disability ’cause whatever happened to me, I ended up with schizophrenia.
Q What are your plans for the future?
A Well, my case is within a month, so it’s kind of up in the wind right now. I am hoping the case will come out my way.
Q What were you doing before you were homeless?
A I was around here in San Diego lookin’ for work mostly, had a couple odd jobs here and there. I worked in the computer industry here, and it kinda went kaput. I like San Diego, and I don’t feel like leaving.
Q Do you have anything to say about the treatment of the homeless here?
A They have a strange attitude. It’s like they don’t want to know that they exist; you know, push them to the side, keep them out of view. They have this Outreach truck I saw yesterday. It’s from the police department. They were talkin’ to this guy, and I just wanted to make sure they weren’t gonna just throw him in the back and take him away. It said “Homeless Outreach” on the side. It was down at North Beach in the parking lot. So I went up to hear what they had to say. They said something about jobs, like they could get you jobs or something, but they didn’t give me a pamphlet or nothin’. It was like they were just trying to see who’s homeless so they could come back later and try to arrest you or somethin’. I don’t know. It was just scary — two cops in a white step van.
Q What were they reaching out with?
A Not much — no coffee, no doughnuts, no sandwiches; and it’s dinnertime. What are they really after? It was strange, like a census. But I am doing okay for out here, but these are the cold days. They have a cold-weather shelter down on Sports Arena for vets. I could get into that one. I’ve been thinkin’ about it, at least during the rainy part.
John — Age 52
Q How long have you been homeless?
A Most of my life either present — I came from millionaire people, and when Mom dies, I’ll be worth a fortune. I love nature and the street and the weather. I had frostbite in Chicago. Down here, I can deal with this. I can eat and sleep free, but unfortunately all the money goes to beer. How embarrassing.
Once I did 11 days in jail for a rusted shopping cart. It was a hundred years old. You know why? I was in the Gaslamp Quarter, and I was hurtin’ tourism. They wanted to give me 30 days. Now that’s ridiculous. Usually you’ll do one day, but I was in the wrong area, you see. And that old thing was worthless; it was a produce cart. I dropped cans off at Ralphs. I walked five miles — I’m talkin’ too much; I’m drunk.