Bringing it home...
San Diego’s streets are full of people one paycheck away from a good home, escaping an abusive relationship or the demons of PTSD. When we stop and talk with people, we meet families, brothers, mothers, seniors, veterans, teenagers, sisters, all looking for a home. Some find community and protection in each other, some choose to stay in isolated corners. This site is about our shared humanity; a documentary project in words and visuals by award-winning photojournalist Peggy Peattie, who has been telling the stories of America's homeless for more than 30 years.
Montana, 32, rode the rails and hitch-hiked his way to San Diego through snow-capped mountains in boxcars and sitting atop piles of rebar, to be near his two sons. He touts his survival skills background, his MMA and Brazilian Ju Jitsu training, and his independent nature, as a foundation for his comfort living in a park or otherwise unsheltered. He saw his boys nearly every day, taking them to the park to play soccer, the beach — mostly what they could do together that didn’t cost anything — and all was going well, mostly. Then he got stung by a bee one day, as he and the boys were on their way to the park. Dizzy from the encounter, due to his bee allergy, he had the boys lead him back to their house, where he slept it off on the couch. His ex, however, was not pleased, and told him he couldn’t see the kids any more. This was a crushing blow, since the kids were his singular focus, his reason to be here in San Diego. Meanwhile, he shares his largely cheerful nature with passersby where he leans against the side wall of the Sprouts store in University Heights. A sign proclaiming he is “traveling on faith” sits beside him, leaning against his pack. Though he never specifically asks for anything, people leave him food, water, money, coupons, etc. He has toyed with the idea of returning to Montana, taking the bus this time, or moving further north in California, while holding out hope he will get a reprieve and be able to hang out with his sons again.
North Park Marc, 49, is a complex being. Soft-hearted, and eager to be kind, he chides his park dwelling colleagues when they swear in the company of women and children, he is also active in his church doing clean ups, working as security, leading youth groups on tours of homeless encampments and whatever his pastor has “voluntold” him to do. He has a short fuse, however, when it comes to tweakers using or selling narcotics in the park, and refusing to seek help and services. At the same time, he prefers living outside to ever being part of a program with rules in exchange for a roof over his head. Once active with a skinhead group that attacked gay men in Hillcrest, he now counts several gay men and women among his friends. He loves his country but hates the people running it. A six-year veteran of the US Marines, Marc maintains a military0style workout routine for keeping fit. He knows the life cycle of all the birds of prey in the eucalyptus trees in his park. He’s excited about his current walk with the Christian faith, which gives him a sense of purpose and family, since he has no contact with any of his seven siblings or other blood relations. His church involvement presents a good substitute for the cycle of drugs and prison that once ruled his days.
Tiffany wants her child back. After a life in and out of foster care herself, she doesn’t want the baby that was taken from her six months ago to grow up with the same experiences she endured. A ward of the state till she was age 22, Tiffany struggled with her own relationship with her mother, was elated to find her biological brother finally a few years ago, and deals with mental health issues, addiction and homelessness, she feels are a result of insecurities and trust issues throughout her youth. After having six other children, three of whom died either in childbirth or soon after, she is committed to creating a stable situation for herself, get an education, and find a way to build a day center for homeless youth. Her street family takes good care of her, though she doesn’t feel she needs protection as much as she needs to find a way to have police and representatives from Child Protective Services believe in her. Rather than getting assistance towards the different life she says she wants to develop, she feels stigmatized, so no one believes she is capable of change. She is determined not to believe them but to trust her heart.
Honey (Lakeesha), 39, and dalmatian puppy Jalila share a tent in the park. They have saved each other’s life, at least once. Honey moved into the park at a low point when she and her husband split up and her part time job faded away when the business owner sold out to another company. She sat on a bench across from the park in a desperate state. She realized the park had a calming effect, so she gathered her belongings and set up camp. The recent heavy rains wreaked havoc with her tent, sending it spinning in different direction, soaking all her belongings. As a single woman in the park, she is vulnerable. She has had many things stolen from her, including a nice bicycle. She’s been sexually assaulted more than once. But she can’t get the police to follow up on the charges, even though she has evidence and sees the perpetrator in the park often. She says she has seen her rapist joking around with police. It was'n’t until she presented evidence they would even take her report. But she has Jalila, a gift, which turned into a life long friendship after Honey saved Jalila from the people who were abusing her, and Jalila tugged Honey away from a freeway bridge, during a moment of despair when she contemplated jumping. Nowadays, the two are inseparable.