At the Broadway Senior Center free movies are shown in the dining room. You may find it difficult to hear the soundtrack because of loud jabbering by some members of the audience.
Many San Diego seniors are trying to live on their Social Security income, too proud to seek SSI assistance, which to them has the stigma of welfare. These seniors have given up trying to “live” and are attempting only to survive. These survivors are living in downtown San Diego. What is their life like?
I visited the Maryland, when monthly rates began at $355.
Let’s consider housing, specifically the Golden West Hotel, located at Fourth and G Street. This grand relic, a historic Gaslamp Quarter site with spacious lobbies and stained-glass skylights, offers private rooms with sink and telephone beginning at $75 a week or $255 a month. The hotel is clean and well managed. Its upstairs area has been recently repainted and recarpeted. The front desk staff, with one exception, is courteous and helpful. Most tenants seem to be seniors, with a sprinkling of unemployed men looking for jobs and trying to stretch the little money they have. For some of these men the next step will be one of the shelters, and then the streets.
When seniors take out their wallets to show the bus driver their bus passes, the street-types dash forward, push the seniors, and snatch their wallets.
Some among the Golden West residents appear to be loonies or street-people types. Some of these people loiter about the lobbies, talking and laughing, their loudmouthed “shits” and “motherfuckers” overheard by everyone. Certainly, any respectable woman considering tenancy, upon entering the hotel and seeing and hearing these undesirables, would immediately withdraw from the premises.
Any respectable woman considering tenancy, upon entering the hotel and seeing and hearing these undesirables, would immediately withdraw from the premises.
For a month on the hotel’s second floor there lived two apparent street prostitutes, one white and one black. Common and noisy, their filthy language filled the hallways. The white blubbery slut was waiting around for her boyfriend to get out of jail. The bony black noisily entertained midnight male visitors to her room. Customers?
For Saturday or Sunday lunch, the senior might wish to visit the Burger King, at State and Broadway, where, in addition to free senior coffee, 99 cent specialties are available.
In the hotel there is a TV viewing area (tobacco-smoke clouded) where TV can be watched. The TV reflecting screen is fuzzy and the images dim. There is an 11:30 p.m. sound curfew, which is enforced upon tenant complaint, but some night clerks keep the TV on all night long.
At the 99 cents store on Fifth, near Broadway, you can sometimes purchase individually boxed cereals at 25 cents and noodle cups for 35 cents.
Outside the Golden West Hotel, at both entrances, panhandlers loiter. Tenants returning to the hotel have been attacked, some requiring hospitalization. In front of one of the little shops in the hotel complex — the Metro Market — street-types panhandle and insult people as they pass. Just up the street on Fourth Avenue is a San Diego Police substation, but they seem unable to cope with the situation.
A few blocks away from the Golden West is the Maryland Hotel, under the same ownership as the Golden West. I visited the Maryland, when monthly rates began at $355. While I was at the front desk, talking to the clerk in charge, two street-types exited the elevator. As they passed me, their conversation was peppered with one filthy word after another. I thanked the clerk at the desk and left. I had no further interest in the Maryland Hotel.
A little uptown, at the corner of Fifth and Elm, is the New Palace Hotel. Their rooms, with private bath but no telephone, begin at $340. However, a year’s lease must be signed. There is a $100 room deposit required, and the key deposit is $10. I saw no loiterers outside the New Palace Hotel, but adjoining the hotel property is a building that houses street-types. Senior safety may be a factor to consider at this location.
Of course, other hotels exist downtown, and they may be discovered by consulting newspapers or by a journey on foot through the area. A selected list of downtown hotels (with rates) can be obtained at the Broadway Senior Center.
As for food, there are two senior dining centers in downtown San Diego that seniors may choose from. One is located at Ninth and Broadway, and the other is on Second Avenue at Fir.
The Broadway Center has two meal sittings. The first is at 11:15 and the second at 12:15. Tickets must be obtained daily for the sittings, thus necessitating for most seniors two trips to the Center. However, if a $20 monthly fee is paid in advance, tickets for the second sitting may be obtained up until noon
There is a billiard table at the Broadway Center in the area where people are waiting to be fed and each day around noon a lanky street-type is usually playing pool, his screams polluting the atmosphere.
Frequently, during the second lunch period at the Broadway Senior Center, a fat street-type will lumber toward the piano area, tape deck in hand. He’ll insert tapes and deafen the diners with his “noise-crap.” (Does he consider it music?)
Nearby, other street-typers will begin stomping their feet to the beat of this noise.
Outside the entrances of the Broadway Senior Center panhandlers beg money. A number of seniors arriving or leaving the Center have been mugged by them. A favorite practice of these street-types is to wait at the nearby bus stop, and when seniors take out their wallets to show the bus driver their bus passes, the street-types dash forward, push the seniors, and snatch their wallets. One man who experienced such an outrage told me that the bus driver just shrugged his shoulders and laughed. He had witnessed the incident.
While in front of the Broadway Senior Center (as well as all over downtown San Diego) seniors may possibly be deafened by goons driving around in cars, windows open, stereos blasting “noise-crap” the drivers consider music.
A completely different situation can be found at the Second Avenue Senior Center. Reservations are made in advance, and a generally joyful atmosphere prevails. Street-types are not in evidence. The daily luncheon charge at this center is $1.50. Monthly tickets are available for $25.
The two senior meal centers are open on weekdays only.
There remains the matter of breakfast, evening repasts, and lunches for Saturdays and Sundays.
About breakfasts. At the Golden West Hotel no cooking is permitted in rooms. The faucet water, however, is usually hot enough in the mornings so that instant coffee (or tea) can be made the room. Also, a cold cereal (or instant oatmeal) can be prepared, with perhaps an orange or banana. A machine in the hotel lobby offers coffee for a quarter. At the Metro Market, coffee and a doughnut can be purchased for 40 cents. Breakfast can be budgeted at 50 cents.
For dinner, food can be made in a hotel room without cooking. A noodle cup might be the meal, or sandwiches of avocado, egg salad, tuna salad, or peanut butter.
A simple mayonnaise for use in tuna or egg salad sandwiches can be made by combining nonfat milk powder with olive oil and vinegar to which has been added dried parsley flakes and garlic powder.
An evening snack might be a salad of chopped cabbage and chopped carrots. At the Metro Market, a hard-boiled egg can be purchased for a quarter, and this can be added to the salad. Or perhaps the evening repast might consist of a can of tuna or beans. These evening meals can be budgeted at 75 cents daily.
For Saturdays and Sundays, the principal meal might be breakfast. Across from the Golden West Hotel, on Fourth Avenue, at the Moon Cafe, you can get for $1.99 two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, toast, and coffee (with one refill). Dinners run around $2.45. On Saturdays or Sundays, the downtown senior might go to the Jack In The Box located at Third and Broadway. Senior coffees (with one refill) are free, and hamburger, steak, or chicken sandwiches can be obtained at times for 994. When at the jack In The Box, expect to be harassed by panhandlers off the street and to have your ears assaulted by the “noise-crap" coming out of the PA system.
For Saturday or Sunday lunch, the senior might wish to visit the Burger King, at State and Broadway, where, in addition to free senior coffee, various 99 cents specialties are available.
These principal Saturday and Sunday meals can be budgeted at an average of $3.00 each.
Where are the best food bargains in downtown San Diego for seniors? Five-pound packages of nonfat milk powder can be purchased at the S and F store located at 15th and G streets. In front of the S and F early weekday mornings, a truck sells fruits and vegetables at bargain prices. A block away, at 16th and G, is the GTM, which has good buys in dried cereals and canned beans, and sometimes in peanut butter and soda crackers. Near the corner of Eighth and E Street, a bakery sells leftover bakery products; good buys can be had there on bread and doughnuts. Their hard-boiled eggs sell for 20 cents. At the 99 cents store on Fifth, near Broadway, you can sometimes purchase individually boxed cereals at 25 cents and noodle cups for 35 cents. Peanut butter at a reduced price is also sometimes for sale at this store. The Farmers Market in Horton Plaza is an expensive place, but there are bargains. Leftover bread at marked-down prices can sometimes be found near the cashier’s stand at the mall entrance. Also, bits and ends of cheese are sold at marked-down prices in the cheese section. On weeknights, after 7:00 p.m., certain food items in the delicatessen department are sold at reduced prices.
The Farmers Bazaar south of Market Street features good buys on fruits and vegetables. If shopping there, expect to be jostled by garlic-breathed shoppers, some of whom are accomplices of the pickpockets operating there.
Visits to Boney’s Market on University Avenue near Fifth can be profitable. Good buys can be had on fruits and vegetables, also breads. Freshly ground peanut butter is also available. Also in that area is Ralphs. Watch for their specials. Occasional trips by bus to the Lucky store in Pacific Beach can result in good buys, particularly canned tuna.
For those who like a daily sip of sherry, the Thrifty Drug Store at Fourth and Broadway carries Gallo sherry. This store also features specials on food items from time to time. Some of their specials are for one day only, so frequent visits are a good investment. You can sometimes get cans of tuna and beans for 50 cents.
Transportation is probably the cheapest item in the senior’s budget. Monthly passes can be purchased for $11 at the Transit Store located at Fifth and Broadway. Adventures might be taken on the various bus and trolley lines. A trip as far as Oceanside can be made on your senior pass.
As for recreation, downtown San Diego offers a wealth of activities for seniors.
At the Broadway Senior Center, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1:15, free movies are shown in the dining room. At these movies you may find it difficult to hear the soundtrack because of the constant loud jabbering by some members of the audience.
At the downtown public library, in addition to books that may be checked out, free movies are offered on Monday evenings and alternate Sundays. Presented also at the library are discussion groups, lectures, and musical recitals. When using the library, however, seniors must be extremely careful of their possessions.
The “Oasis” program for seniors, offered at Robinson’s in Horton Plaza, may be of interest. The catalogue of their classes and special events may be picked up at the Oasis office on the fourth floor of Robinson’s.
The downtown Salvation Army Center also provides social programs for seniors.
Certain downtown theater groups offer discounts to seniors. To be recommended is the Sweetooth Comedy Theatre in the basement of the Maryland Hotel.
The problem, of course, in attending any of these events (particularly at night) is the threat of being attacked by loitering street-typers while returning to your residence. Security is probably the greatest concern of seniors living downtown.
In order to carry a can of Mace, it is necessary to take a two-hour course at the San Diego Security Academy, which will cost you $30. The Academy has cans of Mace for sale.
“Pepper Spray is not legal to use,” says Richard T. Sadlier, community relations officer of the Gaslamp Quarter Storefront office on Fourth Avenue.
A booklet on senior safety published by the San Diego Police Department is available at departmental locations. It presents a harrowing picture of the local crime situation and gives suggestions for coping with that crime. For example, the booklet states that if assaulted, the following procedure is advisable.
- If the attacker wants your purse or wallet, give it to him.
- Sit down on the ground to avoid debilitating injuries.
- Be a good witness. Try to get an accurate description of your attacker.
- Telephone the police and report the attack. (If you’re still alive!)
While I was at the Gaslamp Police Center getting material for this article, a uniformed assistant told me all seniors should carry a whistle and chain around the neck. The whistle is okay, I thought, but wouldn’t the chain make it very easy for the attacker to choke the senior to death?
If additional clothing is needed, good buys can be found at the DAV thrift store at the corner of 15th and Market and at the Amvets thrift store just off Pacific Highway, where on Wednesdays certain items of clothing and shoes are half-priced to seniors.
Should seniors require storage facilities, the Mayberry Storage on 15th near Market has storage units beginning at $11 a month. The management is most pleasant, and free coffee is offered the first 30 minutes of each day.
Haircuts can be obtained free at the Broadway Senior Center or for $2 at the barber college on lower Fifth near Market.
For those San Diego seniors who are attempting to exist on their Social Security income, the following might be a monthly budget for a downtown senior to follow:
Room rent .............$255.00
Downtown San Diego could be a great place for seniors (and others). Perhaps what is needed most is the strong support of the downtown police officers whose hands are increasingly tied by charges of police brutality.