Hayden Sumner, 50, a veteran of the US Navy, always felt it was important to help other people.
He grew up in Houston. His mother was nicknamed the Million Dollar Lady because she was so adept at credit card fraud. His goal in life, since growing up with her, has been to make other people not like his mother. "God gets you for that," he said of his mother's lifestyle.
His way of dealing with it was joining the navy at age 19, as soon as he was able to. "I wanted my world be be all wholesome and good, the kind of life I saw on Leave It To Beaver, the perfect family," he said. "But my mother was Ma Barker. The FBI was after her."
So he need up on a guided missile cruiser, the RK Turner. Everything was going well until one day nearing the end of his eighth year, when a fellow sailor walking past his bunk noticed the magazines he was looking through. Suddenly he was outed as being gay in the military, and was unceremoniously asked to leave.
He worked two jobs at a time. He had a lover for 12 long years; which started well, but became abusive as his partner became more completely alcoholic. Hayden suffered psychological and physical abuse that still makes him angry. He's learned that he's bipolar, which explains some of his seemingly unbound energy.
Working for the power company in Columbia, South Carolina gave him a chance to exercise his mind and fulfill his need to help other people. He confessed that he would refuse to cut off someone's power as a result of not paying a bill. Arriving at a home where a single mother with three young school age children was working two jobs to make ends meet, well he'd been there himself, so he knew what she was going through. "I always gave them another five days to come up with the monthly payment. I'd get called out at work, but I knew I was doing the right thing," Hayden said.
He moved to San Diego and lived in the bottom of a canyon. "I wanted to find out who I am."
A social worker from the Veterans Administration found him. Jill Oliver saved his life he said. "I kept doing bad things. She wouldn't believe I was bad. She forced my good side back out from hiding."
Oliver got hi into the VASH housing program. Things went a little south when Oliver moved and the new counselor working with him didn't step in to help when his apartment flooded and he needed to move out. But a lawyer helped him reclaim his VASH voucher and he is living temporarily at a downtown SRO while waiting for new housing to open up.
Meanwhile he is still fighting demons. "I feel dirty sometimes because of the way people look at me. I imagine they see that I'm gay and I feel dirty." He's also frustrated that he can't find housing away from the drugs scene on the street. He says he is hyper enough without drugs. Hayden is naturally upbeat and happy, he offers. "Drugs do the opposite to me. I'd sit in my apartment and stew if I do crystal meth." He balances that craziness by taking car of his three-year-old Staffordshire named Durant.
Hayden also feels well-meaning people who want to relocate the homeless to Oceanside or Ramona don't realize the need for access to services. He can walk everywhere in the city. If he were in a rural area he'd feel isolated.
Fixing the energy grid is Hayden's solution to much of the homeless problem. "I'd bring solar panels and windmills to San Diego. Take the guys with the most felony raps and put him at the front of the line," he said. "Give them a $20 an hour job manufacturing solar panels. I think he would turn around that very first day. He'd have no more roadblocks to a paycheck, a job, a place to live. You'd give him back his confidence. They'd clean their apartment, they'd be able to shop, spend money, focus on life.
"We ought to start today."