Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
I'm in my mid-40s and am a homeless man here in San Diego. No, I am not an abuser of alcohol or any other substances, a common label stuck on the homeless. I don't even smoke. My manufacturing position was sent to China and around the same time period my father died of a terminal illness. Already prone to bouts of depression, simply put, I crashed. Did I do everything right? Hell, no. I made some pretty dumb moves financially.
I've been wandering aimlessly around the country and in that time I've seen the best and worst in people. Here in San Diego I've come across some police officers who have shown great compassion and kindness towards me and I appreciate them. I've also had other officers look at me as if I was a dog turd on their front doorstep. I was recently approached by a complete stranger and cursed at because I had the audacity to enter the new restroom in Ruocco Park to wash my hands.
Since becoming homeless I've developed some health problems. The Central Library was a place of refuge for me, where I could lose myself in the writings of my literary heroes Dostoevsky, Hamsun, Chekov, Tolstoy and Conrad. Recently I was told that I could no longer enter the library because I had too many thins. I had the same amount of possessions that I've always had; it was just condensed into a rolling duffel bag — a gift from a dear friend down at the harbor who was just trying to make life a little easier for me. Now I'm learning to do without books and internet access, along with not enough food or sleep.
As much as some people would hate to admit it, homeless people are human beings and they require the same basic necessities that others take for granted in their daily lives. Are some homeless people complete slobs? No doubt about it; I've seen some disgusting things. It made me wonder, Do these people have mental or substance abuse problems that cause their behavior? Did they grow up in broken homes and just weren't taught to know better? Or have they been homeless for so long that they've just given up and don't care anymore. Maybe some or all of the above. One thing I do know is that if you continually stomp out people's self-respect and pride, and you constantly treat people like animals, eventually they'll turn into one.