Posts in Men
Montana

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.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Two Hawks

Two Hawks grew up on the reservation in Deadwood, South Dakota, the oldest of five. He spoke his native Lakota language until forced to learn English as a young teenager. At age 17 he was drafted, became a U.S. Marine trained in special forces and was sent to Vietnam where he was involved in many intense, high profile battles. He returned with two bullets still in his body, a broken spirit and having lost two of his younger brothers to the war. “War will screw you up. I still have nights where I don’t sleep,” he said. He eventually got married and the couple settled in Imperial Beach where he worked construction, a job he loved, and rode with motorcycle gangs. The neighborhood kids helped him restore his 1949 Buick. All that changed when his wife of 30 years died 10 years ago. Two Hawks lost his job and his house when he started drinking to deal with the loss of his wife. Now, the 78-year-old veteran’s family consists of his fellow park dwellers, and the ocasional cat, rooster or rabbit that wanders into their camp, who becomes a pet. “We’ve got a family here,” he said. When the weather gets particularly bad, the group pools money together for a motel room for the night, but otherwise they prefer the outdoors.

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Veterans, Seniors, MenPeggy Peattie
Xmas Eve Celebration

Once again, the family of Bob McElroy, president and CEO of the Alpha Project for the Homeless, brought Christmas cheer to the hundreds of people living in the downtown homeless tent shelter by spending Christmas Eve serving dinner to the tent residents. The very youngest members of the extended family scooped handfuls of candy onto residents’ plates and were treated to a peak at the three puppies that were born the day before to one of the tent resident’s small dog. Adult members scooped ham, potatoes and vegetables onto residents’ plates while Santa strolled around taking selfies with everyone. As always, the First Family of compassion brought the greatest gifts of all to those most in need: the gift of their time.

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Men, Seniors, WomenPeggy Peattie
Richard Garcia

Richard Garcia, 53, broke his leg 15 months ago stepping through a hole in the street. Because of that he lost his job, couldn’t pay rent on the room he was living in and ended up living in a friend’s car. A construction worker with licenses for truck and forklift driving as well as carpentry skills, he checks online with agencies throughout the week looking for openings. He often has high school students stop and ask him about homelessness, an opportunity for which he is grateful, he said. He tells them he sees young people on the street strung out on drugs who have no future, and that he lost two jobs before he realized he had to quit doing drugs himself if he wanted to amount to anything. Garcia is grateful for the smallest donation people give, whether food or money, he said. He keeps his clothes and body clean and gets his haircut at the college barber so if he gets that call to work he’s ready.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Dex and Karma

Dex grew up in Queens, New York in a big family. He attended college in Virginia, though it got tough to pay his tuition after his father stole his student loan check. The fight that ensued got Dex noticed by local police. Thus began a long relationship with law enforcement that most recently manifested in his being assaulted while in a Pensacola, Florida jail, allegedly by a policeman. He had to undergo brain surgery and several months of rehab before he could walk and talk again. Now on the streets of San Diego after a job offer to do computer animation fell through, he is looking for work either playing in a band or building websites. Meanwhile he has a good attitude on life, and Karma keeps strangers at a distance. He has spent much of his 35 years on the road, either hitchhiking or hopping trains. After the traumatic head injury, he said he feels like he’s 80. He learned to paint, and thinks he might be able to make a living painting and selling his artwork. He just needs enough money to buy art supplies first.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Marvin C.

Marvin, 54, is a glass half-full soul who grew up in a Christian home in a Baltimore neighborhood. His mother was a nurse, his father a forklift driver: “a working class family,” as he described it. When one of his aunts moved to California, he got permission to move out and live with her and his cousins, graduating high school in L.A. Following in his mother’s footsteps he earned a degree as a medical assistant and found work in a nursing home there. Somewhere along the way be god mixed up with substance abuse. He realized he has an addictive personality and it has to be all or nothing. Marvin has been in and out of programs to deal with alcohol, preferring programs that have roots in Christian messaging. He maintains his sunny disposition, despite having his toes amputated last Christmas due to diabetes. He now gets around on the street in a wheelchair. He hopes to work as a bell ringer for the holidays this year so he can earn money before moving to Long Beach and moving in to another rescue mission program.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Bruce

Bruce, 63, grew up in rural Michigan. He didn’t get along with his mother’s second husband, Jim, who treated him and his siblings like they were burdens, not children. He left home at age 13, ended up working for UNCEF, following natural disasters around the globe. In the 1960s he ran messages back and forth among noted figures like Abbie Hoffman in the anti-war movement. He also spent some time “as a commodity,” he said. In his second attempt at college, he turned out to be a wiz kid, tackling psychology and behavioral health, specifically suicide. He’d seen many people in his life: a sister, friends, ex-partners, commit suicide so it was something close to his heart. He was on the Dean’s List, doing fine, until everything fell collapsed at once. He was hospitalized for suicidal depression. He ended up on the streets. “For four years I was just lost.” Painful spinal stenosis landed him in a wheelchair. Fortunately Bruce connected with an organization that services senior homeless individuals. He was the first person moved into the new Palace Apartments, through Telecare Agewise, just this month. He advises other homeless, especially the new people on the street, to find an ally; that it’s too easy to anesthetize one’s condition with drugs, alcohol and acting out.

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Men, SeniorsPeggy Peattie
Matthew

Matthew thrived in the U.S. Army. He was a leader in everything he did. The regimen and order, the camaraderie and teamwork, all suited him and gave him the confidence and respect he never had growing up in the projects in Minneapolis. Given to the state at age 13, he was moved between boys’ homes and foster care until the age of 20. Working the hustle, stealing and selling drugs, he ended up in the penitentiary, which is where the military found him and recruited him. Matthew feels that was the best thing that happened to him. But he allowed himself to get cocky, didn’t realize he was an alcoholic and that the freedom to work hard and play hard was his downfall. Going AWOL on alcohol and cocaine, he was too embarrassed to return, knowing his colleagues would be disappointed in him. He’s spent the rest of his life regretting it, trying to find that same environment of mutual respect, of purpose, of order. Now drug and alcohol free, he’s also trying to mend relationships and find a new sense of purpose. He’d like to figure out a concrete way to help get fellow homeless veterans off the street.

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Veterans, MenPeggy Peattie
Sean Patrick Reilly

Sean Patrick Reilly grew up in coal country in the hills of Appalachia where his immigrant grandfather landed, fleeing the potato famine in Ireland. He and his friends would party in the hills where residual fires smoldered near the mines. As soon as he finished high school he fled the overbearing nature of his parents, moving to San Diego, doing odd jobs and ultimately joining the Navy where he hoped to learn to be a welder. That changed however when he went AWOL one too many times, and he found himself doing odd jobs again. Sean ended up a carney with a traveling circus, running the machine gun game for 12 years. Tiring of the travel and long days, bouncing between promises and disappointments, he ended up homeless in San Diego again, drinking a little too much. Camped outside San Diego High School, he and several hundred fellow homeless veterans hope to find services like clothing, clearing up outstanding tickets and getting on a list for housing.

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Veterans, MenPeggy Peattie
Uriah Pryce

Uriah Pryce, 73, came to the U.S. in the 1970s to work as a commercial fisherman, following the industry from Florida to Alaska and places in between. He worked hard in the seasonal rotation and often was denied his full pay because he was discriminated against and had no legal recourse. He was afraid to lose his job. Pryce eventually had health problems that sidelined him. He had to get a pacemaker. Continued efforts to get a check from social security fo decades of work have been stymied, despite recruiting lawyers, because he doesn’t have his naturalization paperwork. Rather than try to move in with one of his children (one in Kansas, one in Alaska and two in Jamaica), he is resigned to spending his days around Balboa Park, sleeping in a parking lot downtown. Fellow homeless individuals help him out with money when they have extra. “As long as I get food, a place to sleep, I don’t need anything else,” he said.

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Jack

Jack, 51, grew up in the foster care system in Indiana. Though he went through some 30 homes and institutions, he has great praise for the foster mother that taught him a sense of morality, treating people with respect. He couldn’t say the same for his foster father, however, an evangelical preacher who had a penchant for “other women.” Jack is proud to be working picking up trash, earning some money even though it’s not a glamorous kind of job, rather than just collecting some sort of federal assistance check. He feels the homeless get a bad rap. He’d like to sit down with the mayor and other “head honchos” in San Diego and school them. “There’s important people down here,” he said. Some might have just lost their job or had a family tragedy that drove them into a deep depression. When he gets on his feet, he wants to do outreach to help other homeless individuals get work and housing.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Wheels of Change

Now that Temporary Bridge Shelters are in place, housing hundreds of homeless individuals, Alpha Project for the Homeless is partnering with non-profits who want to help get residents back on their feet and into society. Wheels of Change donated a van and tools to help create a clean up task force of volunteers who get paid for their half day of work. "It builds self-esteem and puts cash in our pockets," said one resident. "This is money that I've earned myself. I'm out here on my own. I don't have any other income. I don't get general relief, social security or disability. It helps with things I need like paying for my substitute teaching credential, which is $71. I'm half way there, raise the roof!"

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Men, Women, SeniorsPeggy Peattie
Billy Wade

Billy Wade, 47, grew up living with his maternal grandmother in the Midwest. When she died, he made his way west, first to Tucson, then San Diego after the trucking company where he worked laid him off. Six years homeless now, two of them in San Diego, he's found a rhythm, staying away from homeless who do drugs and smoke even cigarettes, staying out of trouble with police. Though his legs are swollen from sunburn he doesn't seek medical attention, because "I came from a poor family. If it's somewhat painful, it's gonna cost you an arm and a leg." He's afraid he might be diabetic. He is on no lists for housing because he's afraid it will eat away at his social security earnings and he's saving that for when he really needs it. In the meantime he lives off the kindness of strangers.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Mark Hicks

Mark Hicks, 36, was born in the iconoclastic community of Slab City in the Imperial Valley desert. Many of the families that were living there when he was growing up are still there, but he got tired of the lack of food and over abundance of sun, so he came west to San Diego. He met his life partner in 2010, and they had six and a half good years before HIcks' partner died in June of 2016. The shy artistic man and his pug Doogie have been homeless ever since, trying to stay away from crowds. Just now coming out of his grieving period, Hicks is trying to get his life back on track, find a job and a home. He wishes the public didn't stereotype all homeless as lazy and drug addicted. He also would like to see the city build more SROs and establish rent control so people could actually afford them.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Richard and Laura

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.

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Seniors, Men, FamiliesPeggy Peattie
Raymond Caldwell

Raymond Caldwell is one of 14 children in a military family. They were all born in New Zealand, and when he was four, the lot of them moved to Arkansas. When he was 18 both parents died of cancer. The siblings took care of themselves with the help of the community. He was bored with working in a grocery store, however, so when a friend moved to San Diego, he tagged along. But the latent depression he harbored after his parents' death got him in fights and he ended up on the streets. Unable to get solid work, he lives on his SSI disability check, stays indoors for the first part of the month till his money runs out, and now stays out of trouble. The soft-spoken man smiles easily and doesn't ask for more than living one day at a time. He said he isn't on a housing list because he doesn't know how to sign up.

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MenPeggy Peattie
Richard and Ryan

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.

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Men, FamiliesPeggy Peattie
Richard Mathis

Richard Mathis, 61, grew up playing in the woods of Little Rock, Arkansas with four sisters and a brother, hunting frogs, building tree houses, chasing rabbits and generally exploring the outdoors. A truck driving job brought him to the west coast but the recession forced his company to cut the workforce, including Mathis. He tried to make it on his own, rather than head back to Arkansas, but housing prices forced him into homelessness. He lived in and out of shelters for 15 years, getting his meals there and his mail at Neil Good Day Center, until one day in February this year when he fell ill. Tests revealed he has congestive heart failure. Alpha Project for the Homeless found him housing for what might be his last six months. For now he has a great attitude and a comfortable home he shares with his fiance and their dog.

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Seniors, MenPeggy Peattie
Hayden

Hayden Sumner, 50, joined the Navy at age 19. He saw the good in people and wanted to live a life of service to others. But his mother more closely resembled Ma Barker than June Cleaver. She was wanted by the FBI for credit card fraud. When a fellow sailor discovered Hayden was gay, and told their superior officers, that quickly ended his nearly eight year career in the military. After working two jobs at a time, enduring physical and psychological abuse from a partner for over 12 years, he fled to San Diego where he hid out in a canyon. A VA worker drew him out and set him up with a housing voucher. But he has trouble staying away from the drug scene he wants no part of. He's hyper enough without stimulants, he said. His goal is to bring renewable energy jobs to the homeless so they not only do something constructive for the planet, but regain a sense of pride and self-worth. Now would be a good time to start, he said.

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Men, VeteransPeggy Peattie
Thomas

Thomas, 55, grew up in San Diego. He went to several different high schools because it was the era of busing kids around the county to better integrate students of different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. He worked at several jobs and ended up as a marketing manager for a technical college. Then he developed lung cancer. He credits his supervisors with great compassion, trying to limit his work load and allowing for long absences. But the chemotherapy just beat the energy out of him. Now he’s on permanent disability, but he lost his job, his home and his car to medical bills. “Just trying to survive is a 24/7 job,” Thomas said. “There’s no showers, no public bathrooms.” More than anything he misses the ability to have a good hot meal, specifically steak, or eggs and potatoes for breakfast. He and his immediate neighbors on a freeway overpass help each other move their belongings each week when the city crews come to clean up. Ironically, he moves three blocks to the sidewalk in front of where he used to live.

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MenPeggy Peattie