Mary and Toby
Mary and Toby migrated to San Diego after some trouble in the Orange County riverbeds where they were living. Mary was sexually assaulted and Toby was shot. And someone killed their cat. Toby has mental health issues and she has trouble keeping him on his medications because they have trouble paying for his prescriptions; so he lapses in to psychotic episodes than can be abusive to either her or other people around them. Mary wants to speak up about the way she feels the city and county officials are ignoring the needs of homeless individuals with mental health needs. She’s ready to go before the San Diego City Council and County Board of Supervisors to make her concerns known. She has Facebook friends that listen to her stories and offer emotional support but there’s no immediate assistance from that; so she’s ready to become a more active advocate.
“The cops have no compassion for the mentally ill. They see us as varmints, the scum of the earth. How are we supposed to trust mentally ill people? they say to us,” she said. “It’s getting to the point I’m losing my mind. Homeless women are the most vulnerable people out here. I’m holding all of this in and I’m about to crack. I don’t want my husband put away, I know what he needs.”
Kim and Chris
Arthur Lute is a veteran of the U.S. Marines, the Army and the Navy. He's endured conflict on countless notable battlefields. He re-entered civilian life, married to his high school sweetheart, landscaping, then pursuing a medical field. It was working as an EMT when the flashbacks started to come. Caring for gunshot wounds or head traumas brought it all back. His marriage crumbled. He was depressed over not seeing his daughter. In and out of homelessness and substance abuse, he became the poster child for what PTSD can do to a trained killer. A particularly bad episode forced him into treatment and the care of his mother in San Diego. He went back out onto the streets where he felt he could care better for himself than at his mother’s or at a shelter. He met his current wife Elizabeth there, who was also homeless. When the couple had their boys, they vowed never to sleep on concrete again. Though their small apartment in Imperial Beach is partially subsidized through a VASH program voucher, his military pension is never enough to supply food and clothing through the whole month. With his military involvement proudly tacked to the walls, Lute sees caring for his family as his new battlefield; it’s a war where he is determined to come out on top.
Richard and Laura
Kim and Chris met 12 years ago in a recovery house. She was dealing with a meth addiction and he was just out of prison. Together they helped each other deal with divorces and demons while forging dreams of a more carefree future. They came west. Kim had researched the homeless situation in San Diego but was still shocked when she got off the bus four years ago and saw whole blocks of tents. Chris' four years in the Army might possibly help the two of them get into permanent housing through the VASH program. They stay to themselves, listen to music and watch movies on their cell phones. And they haven't followed up on that dream of hitch-hiking up the coast to see Chris' kids in Washington...yet.
Richard had a carefree childhood with five siblings in rural Arkansas, running through the woods, hunting frogs, fishing and building tree houses. A series of less-than-lucrative jobs landed him in San Diego, where he ended up homeless. After 15 years on the street, a bad fall and dizziness revealed congestive heart failure. Against the premonitions of doctors, who put him on oxygen and prescribed hospice care, Richard has defied their negative outlook by falling in love. And at the beginning of 2018, Richard and Laura made it official that they would spend the rest of their lives together by getting married in a small ceremony on the rooftop garden at Alpha Square downtown. They hope to move into some kind of real housing situation eventually.
Richard and Ryan
Christine Wade, 31, is raising six children ranging in age from two to 14 years old. Soon it will be seven, when her next child is born in January. Breaking free of the cycle of addiction that her own mother suffered, Wade has worked hard to free herself from the world of adoption and foster care, physical and substance abuse that surrounded her as a child in Arkansas. Working as a real estate agent, then a health care worker, she was the mother in a normal but large family until she learned her husband was running a side job of prostitution and drugs at the apartment complex where he was a security guard. Now Wade is in temporary shelter for the winter, but hopes to find a safe haven for her children and the step-children she considers her own.
Ryan Kubota, 43, and Richard Beckman, 25, met in line at the Salvation Army in Lodi, CA. in 2012. Bother were in failed relationships with women, seeking refuge and change at the Salvation Army. Beckman's parents were homeless in Brooklyn, New York. They passed him among relatives until he reached five years old and his grandmother gave him to CPS to be adopted out. His adoptive parents were a bit stressful, he said, and they kicked him out at age 18. Not long after that, he was walking home from an AA meeting and was attacked, left for dead. Kubota was by his side when he came back to life; in a body bag. The two were married finally, earlier this month, at First Lutheran Church, surrounded by homeless friends. Their honeymoon was spent on the same tired picnic bench, however. They are hoping to find gainful employment and a home away from the streets together.
Kelly and Jacob
About 40 children live at the temporary campground for homeless families and individuals set up in the far east corner of a parking lot for city vehicles. With the security of safe place to call home, that doesn't have to be packed up every day and moved, kids are afforded the luxury of actually celebrating some of the small moments of childhood; like dressing up for Halloween. A representative from the San Diego City Attorney's office arrived to deliver costumes just in time for the children to celebrate a Halloween carnival organized by the Alpha Project, the campground supervising agency. Alpha also supplies three meals a day for those in the campground and gives the children rides to and from school each day.
Sandra and Gary
Kelly and Jacob share a peanut butter sandwich and a bottle of juice all morning, trying to find some shade. While Jacob might be ready to run into his terrible twos, Kelly has too much on her mind to feel carefree. Only 31, Jacob is her fourth child, and she's trying to create a stable living situation for him, off the streets and out of the Rescue Mission where she contracted lice and the two of them have to be out each morning at 5:30 a.m. with all their belongings. She is also worried about the breast cancer surgery she is undergoing this week, and if they'll get it all. Then there's the ovarian cancer. And the chemo treatment, and the energy it takes to chase after a two-year-old. But she's got a new attitude, she said, "I've learned my life's lesson not to get with the wrong people any more."
Sandra and Gary were sleeping near each other and watched over each other’s stuff on the streets of San Diego for month before they gradually became a couple. Sandra, 44, was born here, and moved with her family to Cancun when she was five. Even with five older brothers and sisters, lots of aunts, uncles and cousins, she had to work two jobs when she was old enough to do so. The work was hard on her because she injured her back at age eight, falling from a playground bar onto the concrete below. She was too young for surgery, they told her, so her back never healed properly. She moved back the the U.S. at age 31 and started working in the fields in Arizona, mostly harvesting broccoli. After three years it proved too difficult, after her husband pushed her backwards, further injuring her back, dislocating two discs. She moved to San Diego to try hotel work again, but only found 12-hour shifts. She sent her two children to live in Cancun while she tried to sort things out. Gary, 55, grew up in Minnesota. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18, a combat veteran of Desert Storm who retired after 20 years with an honorable discharge. He isn’t receiving his benefits, however, because it’s difficult to send papers to someone without an address, they tell him. He figures he is due $7,000 in back pay and has been on the list for the VASH housing program for two years, hoping for help soon.
Shirley and Bill Sinclair
Vilma fled the chaos of drug violence and an abusive husband embroiled in a cartel in her native Honduras, bringing her two boys Manuel and Julio by bus to the U.S. border. After five days in detention, the family was granted asylum. But they still had nowhere to go, so they found their way to the fringes of East Village's homeless encampment, pitching a tent alongside others, beneath a sign that reads "No illegal lodging." Wary of trusting anyone, she sleeps with both eyes open, guarding the boys and their most important possession, the wheelchair for her youngest son who has muscular dystrophy. They hope to get into a shelter soon. In the meantime, Manuel buzzes up and down the sidewalk on a skateboard, which makes up for his inability to walk, and Julio learns English by playing word puzzles in a book.
Brittany and Joey
Shirley Sinclair, 68 and husband Bill Sinclair, 57, met in Las Vegas where she was hiding out from an abusive relationship in a shelter and he was the security guard. They’ve been married 15 years. They arrived in San Diego’s East Village only three months ago, thinking rents might be cheaper and social security advocates would be more helpful than they are in Nevada. Bill, from Boston, raised in an unfriendly foster home, happily joined the Navy as soon as he was 18, deployed to Iran during the hostage crisis, and throughout the Pacific region. Now he needs a liver transplant and has diabetes. He's lost 100 pounds. The two can't find a home they can afford where they can stay together, so they stay on the street. They're frustrated by San Diego's transit system, and how far it is to the Veteran's Administration.
Beverly and Ryan
At the point most people would call rock bottom, these two met. And through an act of compassion they became an unlikely but complimentary couple, married nearly four years now. Both were abused as children, were in and out of CPS, CYA, and had seriously combative home lives growing up. After his mother committed suicide, he suppressed his emotions and lashed out at everyone, including prison guards. She went through the foster care system and escaped being sex trafficked to fend for herself. Despite physical ailments and no reason whatsoever to trust anyone ever again, they found a quiet storm in supporting each other against the world. They would really like to find a normal living situation and even menial labor so they could start life afresh together.
Beverly, 38, and son Ryan, 8, are conscientious about their health despite being homeless. They maintain a vegan diet, and she home schools him, since that's the way she started learning, a much more effective system than the public school in North Carolina full of drugs and gangs. They have tried every shelter in San Diego, some twice, without being able to secure permanent housing. She would love a live-in caregiver position or to work on a community farm.