Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Quick Update

I am becoming more accustomed to sleeping on the street, most of the time I can sleep through any noise made by passersby or the other homeless - that is, unless they are making noise right next to my tent.   I'm also getting quicker at setting up and breaking down the tent, a skill that has come in handy  as the police did a sweep down the street recently. I was out of there before they realized it.

I lost my hat the other day, so when I went down to the beach to take a shower, I ended up with a serious burn on my head and face.  My scalp was so hot you could light cigarettes on it.  My bald head actually blistered.  Will have to visit Walmart again soon, for a new hat.

I will be looking at an available apartment this afternoon.  Wish me luck.

UPDATE:  went to look at the apartment at 11am and was told to come back at 2.  I returned at 2 and was told that no one would be available today, to show me the apartment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nocturnal Breakthrough

Finally it happened.  Through the rowdy revelry that downtown San Diego attracts, I was able to sleep soundly.  I got to my usual sleeping spot just after 10pm, quickly set up my camp and laid down to sleep.  Though there was a great deal of noise, it was more of a constant din, a white noise that my brain was able to tune out and focus on the task of sleeping.  As I've said before, the noisiest part of the night is between 2 and 2:30 am.  But last night I slept through until 3:45am.

When I wake up in the middle of the night, it's usually to urinate.  As an urban camper, toilets are not near by.  Some people will find some place out of the way, and out of the street lights, but because I have my tent,  and because I carry a container with me for just this situation, I stayed in my tent and peed into a McDonalds coke cup.  I then took the cup and contents outside of my tent and poured it onto the street and gutter.   Back in the tent I slept for another two hours, then broke camp and headed up to McDonalds.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Following Night Etc

Last night was Friday night and I expecting it to be a rowdy night and prepared for not getting much sleep.  I headed on down to my sleeping spot at 9pm - the earliest that cops will let us set up tents.  This is an hour earlier than usual.

It was a cooler night than before, thank goodness.  My tent retains heat well, which I'm sure will come in handy in the cooler months, but in these summer nights I have to sweat it out for a while.  San Diego weather is odd in that respect.  Most local weather forecasts give 4 different sets of temperatures depending on how far away one lives from the coast.  Although the relative temp is mild, a person will either burn up or catch a chill depending on whether or not there is a breeze.  The never talk about "wind chill" here.  I didn't learn about that little reality until I had moved to Tennessee.  But it's true how different the same temp can feel depending on the consistency of the wind.   My tent blocks out all wind, as well as keeps a lot of my body heat in.   Given, there is a flap that I can open or close to let in the breeze, but this flap also lets people walking by see into the tent.  I would rather sweat and remain unseen.

I fell asleep soon after getting the tent up, and awoke about 1:30am, when the first revelers ventured by my tent - after leaving the downtown clubs and on their way to their parked cars.  There was a steady stream of noisy drunken people, and it seemed to go on longer than usual.  Again came the yelling and shouting matches, the verbal fights, threatening to make it physical.  Guys trying to be macho in front of their friends, girls getting mad at their girlfriends for not dumping their idiot boyfriends, guys yelling at girls for dumping them, etc.  At about a quarter to 3 it calmed down enough that I could get back to sleep.  When I awoke after that, I saw that the sky was lightened, which means that it was after 6am.  I never want to sleep in that late because of the attention it would attract from the police.  But then I remembered that it was now Saturday.  The cops are usually less harassing on the weekends.

I quickly packed up my things and headed to the McDonalds.  I bought breakfast, not certain if my debit card would work, but it did.  I ate and opened up my laptop.  It only had 20% battery power left.  Instead of looking for a place where I could plug in (usually at a nearby cafe) I decided to head down to the beach.  I was overdue for a shower.   Considering how long it had been, I assumed I was in a state of nose blindness.  I was feeling that funky stickiness all over.   Well, there is a cure for that, even if it's not the best - just jump in the ocean.  It knocks off a lot of the crusties, enough to make it though the day without offending others.   This morning, though, I had a bar of soap with me.   I actually thought of soaping up in the ocean, but there were already too many people around to do that.  So, I spent a some time in the waves - the waves were awesome by the way, I wish I had access to a board - then after getting out of the water I made my way to the restroom facilities, where, outside, they had showers for washing off the sand and ocean water.  Ocean water really isn't "clean" water.  It's a bit slimy - there is a lot of kelp in the area.    Though one doesn't usually see people in those beach showers with a bar of soap, I broke out my Irish Spring and started lathering myself up - twice.  It had been several days since I'd last showered.  

Clean - it's an awesome feeling when you've been away from it for a while.  Another benefit of having my tent is that I can set it up at the beach, put all my belongings in it, and then lock it up so that it's all relatively safe, no one will bother it.  I can also close myself into the tent and change my clothes in privacy.  After showering, I went back to my tent.  By this time a lot of other people were at the beach and had crowded around my tent.  Still no one was aware that I had stripped down to change and put on all clean clothes - a major convenience, although it's somewhat of an inconvenience to set it up.   But eventually I was done, cleaned up and feeling fresh.  I need to do laundry soon, though.  I have a bag full of wet clothes starting to get that moldy smell.

Did I mention that the waves were perfect this morning?  Usually the water is kind of choppy at this beach and the waves are irregular.  Perfectly parallel to the shore and evenly spaced, each wave crested in uniform fashion and of decent size.  I need a boogie board, or something.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thursday Night Nuts

So, this happened last night.   Around 10pm I got my tent set up for the night.  It's the same place for a couple nights in a row now, so that's a good sign that I won't have problems keeping the spot, and won't have to fight someone for it.

My tent is situated near a homeless services program, and at night some of the homeless people in that program come outside near where I am,  to smoke cigarettes, shoot the shit, or otherwise wind down at the end of the day. Though I can hear them talking, I find safety in the fact they are so close, even though a fence separates us.  They can see me, and I them.  I've never talked to any of them.  As soon as I arrive, I set up the tent, get inside, and zip it up.  I don't ever want them to consider me a bother, or they may run me off.

From this lounge area for the shelter program people there is a decent view of the street, and a nearby intersection.  This is an area where many homeless people sleep for the night, and given the nature of some homeless people, watching the area can be "entertaining" as it were.  Last night was such a night.  The thing is, it was just one homeless person causing a scene, but that was enough.

He was across the street from me, yelling at random homeless people.  There was a lot of "fuck you, mother fucker" and the like.  It seemed as though he was attempting to get someone riled up enough to fight although I don't recall him actually trying to call someone out to fight.

My fear isn't so much that someone like him will come at me and try to fight, I'm good at avoiding confrontation, but that I will get caught in the middle of other people's fight.  In the heat of the moment people forget where they are and they start doing damage to everything around them.  I don't want anyone messing with my tent, or breaking my laptop.   Many years ago some idiot started a fight outside a hotel where some music stars were staying. I was only there to visit a friend who recently took a job at the front desk.  Well, this idiot decided to throw my bicycle at the other person he was fighting.  It ruined my bike.

Anyway, this lunatic ran around the corner of the intersection, picked up a large aluminum stand with the sign "Men Working" on it, and threw it at a random car that was passing him.  He kept on his rampage on the other side of the block out of view, but within a minute or two cops were swarming in from everywhere.  The guy tried to run but the cops in cars were quick to corner him.

There is a double relief in that the nut case was caught but also that the cops would now be around for a while, investigating the scene and doing paper work etc, before leaving.  I knew then that I could relax and sleep.

Before dozing off, I heard the guys on the other side of the fence talking. They knew the lunatic. He used to be in that program they were now in.  They said that when he was in the program he was cool, and had it together, was working at the ship yards and was making good money.   But then as what often happens, because his life had been going well for a while, he stopped taking his meds for some mental illness.  And since he had money from his job, he started doing drugs.  Everything he was working on fell apart and he was kicked from the program.

Then I woke up shortly after 2am.  All the clubs downtown close at 2, so from to about 2:30am, the people who have been partying at the clubs begin making their way back to their cars.  Most of them are inebriated.  Some of them are belligerent.   Just like the lunatic earlier, these people, mostly guys but not always, will try picking fights with someone - anyone.   So it was that I awoke to the sounds of a shouting match. One guy bragging about his ability to do grave bodily harm to people. Slowly they make their way down the street.  This night, most of the loud people had Irish accents. Tourists.  (FYI: Americans aren't the only assholes in the world.)

It seemed as though within every wave of people going by there was at least one person trying to start a fight. Usually it was with another person from their group or from the club, but sometimes they were picking fights with the homeless.   (I don't understand why, but it seems that the streets where the homeless are allowed to camp for the night are the same streets the clubbers use to get back to their cars.)  It was getting so bad last night that I knew I couldn't sleep.  It then got so bad that it seemed a chance that a fight was coming my way.  So I sat up and put on my shoes, in preparation for getting out of the tent.  I couldn't see them from inside the tent but I could tell that they were passing by me, and one in that crowd gave my tent a kick.

Now, I had considered this kind of thing before, (that someone might be able to kick or injure me while sleeping) so have always situated myself within the tent in a way that limits that potential.  Also, it happens that the material the tent is made of is loud and crinkly when moved, not unlike a bag of potato chips.  Considering there were at least 3 of them, and only me, and considering that they kept moving down the sidewalk, I figured it to be no use to get out of the tent and confront them.

Things quieted down after that and I was able to sleep until about a quarter to 6am.

I'm Just Saying

Most of the problems that people have with the homeless could be easily solved if they would treat the homeless with more compassion.  I'm just saying.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Financials

I have 36 dollars to last me the rest of the month - that comes to $3.60 a day for food and laundry etc.   The end of the month is usually a stretch.  Please donate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Broke

So, as I was exiting the trolley at the Santa Fe station today one of the rear wheels on my little cart broke and folded underneath.  Cheap ass shit.   I thought of going to the Ace Hardware store in downtown to look for another wheel, but then figured the other wheel would probably break soon enough anyway, so I went ahead and bought another new cart - the new one cost 5 bucks more but seems sturdier; hopefully it will be more reliable.  And thank goodness that I just received a paypal donation so that I could afford to get it.   I would have been screwed had that extra money not come.   No way am I going to lug around so much extra stuff on my back.   I would have just ditched 75% of it, and forced myself to do without.  I just hate to see decent stuff getting trashed.   Maybe tomorrow I will do an "unpacking" video, of the contents of my cart and backpack.  Those are usually interesting.  I just have to remember to charge up the camera battery.

I tell ya, the sidewalks and streets, especially around the trolley tracks, are a mess and cause a lot of damage to little carts.  Instead of building yet another new park or tourist attraction, San Diego needs to take care of it's roads and infrastructure.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Pacific Beach

Here I am in San Diego and still I rarely make it down to the beach.   Each time that I do, I kick myself and wonder why I don't go more often.

The Pacific Ocean, and it's miles of beaches, is the biggest attraction of all the attractions in Southern California.  Best of all, the beach is FREE!   Of course, depending on your mode of transportation to get there, you may have to pay for parking, or for a bus ride, but the beach itself is free, and always will be.

So, that gets me wondering about all the poor and homeless people in this part of the country.   You just don't see poor folks taking advantage of this awesome recreational offering very often.  Sure, playing in the surf is fun, and so is throwing around a football in the sand.  But even better, just staring out at the seemingly infinite horizon of the ocean, listening to the sound of the waves breaking onto the shore, and the occasional cry of a sea gull, is one of the most tranquil experiences that nature has to offer.

The poor, for the most part, are an unhappy bunch, often complaining, always worrying.  They squabble amongst themselves over the most petty issues.   They feel miserable.  Yet just a couple miles away lies the cure to what ails them, if only they'd let themselves partake of it.  As Carl Jung explains in his book, "The Earth Has A Soul", nature has a restorative quality to it, and for humans to maintain their health they must keep in touch with nature and to visit it often.

This reminds me of what I've said before about the homeless, that they live under a storm cloud, constantly depressed, their vision is skewed, near sighted.   I say this about the homeless in response  to people saying things like, "the homeless come here for the weather," or "if we create more services for the homeless, we'll just attract more homeless people."  Both of those ideas are wrong for the very fact that homeless people cannot, as a general rule, see beyond their homelessness.  Their view of life, of their situation, is clouded by depression and unhappiness, and all the other emotions like anger and fear.   Homeless people are too consumed with their situation to be mindful of such leisure benefits, of trying to climb any social or financial ladder.   The homeless are not looking to take advantage of the next best thing to come along.  Desperate people don't have such choices.

And so it's true of all poor people, regardless of the depth of their poverty - over come by their situation, they are unable to see and thus take advantage of the good things in life, even when it's so close at hand.

Me?  After reading some Carl Jung and Thomas Merton as well as Hemingway and Steinbeck, I've been working to become more self aware - to understand myself and my place in the world, all so that I can break from bonds and overcome the obstacles that prevent me from living life.   So, yeah, I'm not like most homeless people in that regard, and I can, with some effort, step out of myself, and enjoy things, (like going to the beach) if only briefly.

Later That Night

So, if you've been keeping up, you know that yesterday morning we who slept along a particular sidewalk were shooed away at 5:30am by the police.   I didn't think too much of it because the police do this kind of think about once a month.

That evening, with nothing else to do, and interested to see how homeless people arrived at this sleeping area, I showed up there around 6:30pm.  A few bags were scattered along the fence as attempts by some homeless to claim those areas for themselves early.   Leaving a bag, or other item, to claim an area, is one of those rules of the streets that most homeless people respect.  Disrespecting that claim could lead to a fight or other harassment.   Still it also happens that when bags are left all day, some homeless people are apt to pilfer and steal from them.   It's a risk.   As I found out last night, someone did leave a bag to claim a spot.  They also didn't want to lug all those belongings with them throughout the day.  The bag was still there then the owner got back that evening,  but they reported some things had been taken from it.

Being that no people were around, save these bags they had left,  I wheeled my cart to the spot I wanted and locked it to the chain link fence which bordered the empty lot.  Then I walked across the street to the library to use the restroom.

To be clear, my cart is not a grocery shop cart, it's one of those smaller carts, a utility cart, that you see older people using in which to carry their groceries home - black, square framed, small wheels in the front, bigger wheels in back, stands upright.
These carts are all the rage here in San Diego among the homeless and poor folks.  They are very convenient and accepted by the community.   Even the city busses have designated seating for people who have these carts with them, and because some of the trolleys have narrow doors and steep steps, the trolley drivers will deploy a lift to pick you up, with cart, so to get you into the trolley.  I have all my worldly possessions in my cart.  And the cart is big enough to carry all my clothes, separated in two bags, one for clean and one for dirty - my tent and sleeping bag, and a bag of drawing pens etc, for if I ever get in the mood for a little art therapy.  It is kind of rickety and cheaply made.  It cost me 20 dollars.  There are much better ones for around 40 bucks.  I may upgrade with my next ssi check.

But I digress.

Usually by 7pm, a large number of homeless people will be gathered along the wall and fence, waiting for 9pm, the time when the cops say people can bed down without being harassed.  Being there is competition for places to sleep on the sidewalks, it's best to show up early.  But at 7, no one had shown up yet.  At 7:30pm the sidewalk was still as desolate.   Being that the library on that day was open until 8pm I assumed that cops had made a point of keeping people away until after the library closed.  Got to keep up good appearances for the regular citizens, you know.

I also noticed around 7pm that the downtown partnership's clean up crew was working in the area.  At one point someone came down the sidewalk with a leaf blower - behind him came a couple people with brooms and trash scoops.   They didn't bother anyone's belongs along the sidewalk, they just worked around it all.  I figured that they'd give the sidewalk a quick sweep and would be on their way, but they didn't leave.  I asked one of them what was going on.  He said that someone was coming to look at the property tomorrow to buy it.  The clean up crew kept working around the block and the empty lot. They eventually made three passes down the sidewalk.  That was the first clue that things were not right.

On the far side of the empty lot, where other people slept, and a full block away from the library, the cops were less likely to bother people.  People on that side could set up their tents and bed down much earlier in the day.  I assume this was because it was farther away from the library.  But this time, the downtown partnership's "safety ambassadors" were patrolling that side, and they ended up having a minor verbal altercation with the homeless there.   From where I was I could not hear anything, but the actions and body movements made it clear what was happening.   The safety ambassadors did not hesitate in calling the police and the cops showed up soon after.  Though I did not see anyone get arrested, the cops stayed there - they didn't leave.

At about 7:45pm as people were exiting the library for the night, some of the homeless who regularly sleep on the sidewalk had gathered in front of the library.  They too were watching the events as they unfolded.  No one dared to claim their spots on the sidewalk with the clean up crew, the safety ambassadors and the cops still around.   The talk among the homeless was that  they expected those poeple to leave around 8pm and then we'd be allowed to start bedding down for the night.  But that didn't happen and most the homeless lingering in the area dispersed to other places in the city for the night.   Others of us stuck around in hopes that by 9pm, the time when we could legally bed down, that the cops and others would leave us be.   Instead, at around 9 one of the safety ambassadors rode her bicycle over and told us that no one would be allowed to sleep in the area, "any more".  She said that some dignitary was going to tour the city tomorrow (today).

Gentrification - rich people move in, forcing poor people to move out.  Oh well, that's a story as old as time.

When the safety ambassador told us that we could not sleep the night, one of the few people gathered asked, "you people keep telling me where I can't be, tell me some place were I "can" be."

She the told us that the west and east sides of the post office downtown is were they were allowing people to sleep.   I remembered walking by the post office earlier in the day.  About 2pm the sidewalk was already full of people claiming their spots to sleep.   One block over was the salvation army building, were I'd spend my first couple nights in San Diego, a year ago.  That's where I found space to put out my sleeping bag.  There was not enough room for my tent.  I secured my cart as best I could.  I put a tarp over the whole thing and locked it to the fence which bordered the property.  I laid down and noticed that the street had a lot of car and foot traffic.  Sleep was not going to come easily.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Crazy Check Won't Stretch

I get a small check from the government each month for having a mental health disability.  Thing is, that amount usually doesn't last me the entire month.  That's why I'm usually asking for donations around this time each month.   If you don't mind a little cyber panhandling... I could use a donation or two.  Money is easily sent via the paypal button on the right.  It sure would help, and I'd be most grateful.

Pre Dawn Wake Up Courtesy Of Police

So, I had been staying at the Vinny (St Vincent DePaul Shelter) - was there for about 4 weeks.   The case manager of Veterans Community Services arranged for me to stay there while she was supposedly finding me housing.   Well, after a month of her stringing me along and providing nothing but lip service, I left the Vinny for the less obtrusive life of cement surfing.  If Veterans Community Services finds suitable housing for me, they know how to contact me, but I'm not going to continue playing games with them. It is becoming increasingly clear that most homeless case management consists of nothing but social workers shuffling paperwork while the homeless solve their own homelessness.  Yet when the homeless find a way off the streets, the case management takes credit for it.

In recent days I've been sleeping only in my sleeping bag because I was taking my time getting down to the area where I sleep and there has been no room for setting up my tent.  So, I would just find a wide enough space between two other sleeping homeless people and fill it - rolling out my sleeping bag and setting up my back pack like a head stone, the most secure place for it while I sleep.

But last night I made a point of going down early and claiming a spot for my tent.  It was 7:30pm.

As per the rules given to the homeless, by way of law enforcement's current interpretation of new laws regarding homeless behavior, the police have instructed the homeless that they may sleep on the sidewalk from 9pm until 6am.   Any other time, and the police could site us for illegal lodging.

When I got down to the sleeping area, I took a few things out of my cart (yes I have a cart now) and spread them out along the chain link fence, so to claim that area for my tent.  And I sat there among my things until 9pm.   Then I set up my tent, put all my things inside the tent, and lastly, put myself inside the tent, and grinned.  Being in the tent gives me an immediate sense of privacy, despite there being many homeless people around.  They couldn't see me, and I couldn't see them, and I could relax.  My anxiety usually keeps me in a state of tension while homeless - the privacy of the tent gives me a noticeable sense of relief of that tension.  Last night I had the best sleep I've had in some time.  Now, I'm actually more comfortable sleeping on cement than on a mattress - it's better sleep than I get when staying at a motel.

In the middle of the night, last night, I heard the sounds of someone very close to my tent.  He had positioned himself to sleep between my tent and other people near by.  His coughing, his rustling of blankets etc., was loud, being that he was so close.   Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a bottle being knocked over and its liquid contents sloshing around.    I thought - I hoped - that the bottle's lid was securely in place.   When I got up a couple hours later, so to take a piss, I found that that was not the case.  The guy had spilled the contents of the bottle and it ran underneath my tent.  Sure, my tent is waterproof, but it still made the tent wet, and smelly.  He had spilled coffee with a great deal of creamer in it.  Now I'll have to find a way to clean the tent.  Guilt over the spillage must have motivated him to leave the area, cause he was gone when I'd gone out to empty my urine container at 3:30am.

At about 5:30am I awoke to someone walking along the sidewalk, waking people up and saying "The cops are here."   I poked my head out of my tent, and sure enough, at the end of the block several cop cars sat idling.   Everyone along the sidewalk started getting up, packing up their things and leaving the area.

Being that my packing up involves several things I must do inside the tent, people on the outside of it assume that I'm not getting read to leave, including, evidently, the cops.  Most people had left the area by 5:45am, but I was still inside the tent, rolling up my sleeping bag, etc., when I heard the sound of a  car's engine nearby.  From his car a cop called out to me and told me I needed to tear down my tent.  I called back saying I was working on it.  He drove away.   Just a couple minutes later I was done with things inside the tent and came out to find all the police had left.

It does seem that the cops were going to just sit in their cars until 6am, then ticket all the homeless who were there.  That someone noticed the cops near by and rousted everyone so that they could leave the area before 6am thwarted those plans.   I had everything packed up, even wiped off the bottom of my tent as best I could, and was on my way by 5:50am.  I then caught the nearby trolley, headed for this McDonalds.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Homeless Help Hyperbole

This is one of the most damaging aspects of advocacy for the homeless - the exaggerated claims about how much help is available.  Some do it because they think they are actually helping,  though most do it as an excuse to not help the homeless.

    "Oh, there is plenty of help available for the homeless." = WRONG!

Sure, just ask any homeless service provider and they will tell you a story, alright, a story about all the great things they do for the homeless.   You, the listener of the story will come away with a feeling that things are being taken care of - you'll send your money to the provider and believe that you have solved homelessness.  But, you really don't know anything about homelessness, and don't really know how your money will be spent, don't know what homeless people really need, and so don't know what questions to ask, so to vet the claims made by the homeless service provider.

But trust me when I say, they exaggerate.  They exaggerate A LOT!   They want you to support their work, they want you to think they are doing a bang up job, that they know exactly what homeless people need, and are providing all the right services to the homeless.  And they want you to tell others about how good they are.  Their paychecks are dependent on your donations.

I recently had someone tell me that - "There are a tremendous amount of resources that can get you Housing."

I then told her that I just spent an entire month with one such resource that kept stringing me along, but never got close to getting me into a place.  Of course she said that I shouldn't give up but should try another resource.

I guess she doesn't understand what it means to string someone along.

Resources to help the homeless are very limited, ladies and gentlemen.  If for example, a service provider says they help people with paying their rent, what they don't tell you is that they only help certain types of people pay rent, and that they can only give help based on strict requirements and that  even when they do help, the provide a very minimal amount of assistance.  It usually ends up that they only help a few people a month and leave the majority of those in need still wanting.  This happens with every homeless service provider in every aspect of their "services."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Government, Society, et al

Thomas Paine once said, "Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."

I don't agree. Government is nothing more than a reflection of our society, which in turn is nothing more than a reflection of ourselves.  

When, we get to the point of throwing off despotism and usurpers, what we are really doing is rejecting what we have become as a people, usually for seeing that we have become corrupt, and thus attempt to recreate ourselves, aiming to fix what ails us as a society.

It is funny how when things go bad, people have a tendency to avoid admitting culpability and thrust blame on the most convenient of scapegoats.

This corruption that people point to in government is the very same corruption found in society.  We can only judge such things in their entirety. You cannot judge society solely on what is good about it, and contrast government solely on what is bad about it. That's just another attempt to avoid culpability for the state of things.

Culpability is a good word, a word used not nearly enough.   In future posts I hope to expand on the issue of culpability.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Near Home

All attention is focused on finding a place I can afford to live.  Could it happen this week?  I really hope so.