Target, Sports Arena area
Richard — Age 38, approximately
Q How long have you been homeless?
A I’ve been homeless here in San Diego for about two and a half years. That’s how long I’ve been selling Street Light newspapers. I sell them every day. I get a room down at the El Rio. I’m able to do laundry, eat, you know, take a shower. So Street Light helped me. They’ve done a lot for me. I’m kind of dedicated. I even got my name in the paper in this issue right here on the last page. I set up drop spots for the other vendors.
Q What were you doing prior to being homeless?
A I did commercial fishing in Florida. And before that I worked at a strip club in New Orleans dancing. I also worked in Key West as a barker for a strip club. I’ve been around. I lived with a stripper in Mexico. I grew up in Chicago. Surprised that I don’t have my Bulls hat on. I did 34 years in Chicago. Had to get away from the cold and snow. That was enough.
Q What caused you to become homeless in the first place?
A A relationship went bad a couple years ago. That was the main thing that brought me out here. But I used to drink a lot, so that messed me up a lot as well.
Q What are your plans for the future?
A Well, I’m into sales. I could have got a job here at Target doing stock at night, but that’s hard labor. I like to work telemarketing, or I could be a sales rep down here at Dow’s. I like being with people.
Q How do you feel about the state of the homeless in San Diego?
A There are a lot of homeless in San Diego that are homeless ’cause they want to be homeless. They do drugs. They drink. They do crimes. I’m not down on the homeless, ’cause I’m homeless, but if I don’t watch my cart settin’ over there, someone’s gonna walk off with it. I have my sleepin’ bag, and my friend’s stuff is all parked over there around the corner. And that’s the way they are. They’ll rip you off in a heartbeat. You have to look out for number one over here.
I’m not really sure what comes next, but I like this. I’m my own boss. Nobody tells me what to do. Nobody tells me when to stop. I make as much as I want to make. Well, not always, but I do pretty good.
Q What is an average day like for you?
A I’ve got a routine. I come out here. I sell my papers. I go get my room. I shower, shave, watch HBO, come back out here the next morning, go to sleep, wake up, go down and get my soup. I’m big on the Cup O’ Noodles. I do a lot of those. You know, it keeps me goin’. And sometimes I get enough to go over to Burger King or Jack in the Box and go back and get a room again. It’s like a routine. Gotta make sure you have cigarettes though.
Q You mentioned that you were a barker for a strip club. What is a barker?
A We stood out in front of strip clubs in New Orleans and Key West, and we would say, “We got hot women and cold beer right here. We got ’em ’cause you need ’em.”
Ocean Beach, on the beach
Robert — Age 30-something
Q How long have you been homeless?
A Well, I’m not always homeless. I am, though, on the weekends because I lost my license for a DUI. I come here and just camp out on the beach, party, play guitar. It’s like a free music school here. I was totally homeless several times before, a grand total of three or four years of my life, and it wasn’t that bad. I had to make do. I could survive. I always found something to eat. I don’t mind just hangin’ out on the street for the weekend, and I don’t need another dui.
Q So you’re homeless by choice on weekends so you can drink?
A Yeah. I had an accident. I got hit by a car a year ago, and I’m livin’ at my mom’s house now. She doesn’t like all the drinking. So I come here for the weekend.
Q How long has it been since you had your own place?
A It’s been a while.
Q What happened?
A I got into a fight with my roommate in ’98, and I ended up breaking my hand hitting him, which caused me to lose my job. While I was waiting for it to heal, the job moved to Las Vegas, and I just haven’t been able to get back on my feet since — not that I’ve tried very hard. The predicament I’m in is my own fault.
Q What do you do for a living?
A The last job I had was in marble and granite fabrication. For now I do little odd jobs — wax people’s cars, do a little bit of mechanic work, and some minor carpentry. Sometimes I go with a friend to the swap meet. We go to garage sales and look for stuff to sell at swap meets.
Q Do you ever get money for playing guitar?
A Occasionally, but not very much though.
Q Are you a songwriter?
A Somewhat. I started playing in prison seven years ago.
Q They let you have a guitar?
A Yeah, they do in South Carolina. They used to here, but they don’t anymore I’ve heard.
Q Did you grow up in the South?
A No. I grew up all over the place. My dad was in the Marine Corps. I’ve been to Alaska, Florida, Virginia, both Carolinas, Texas, California, Arizona. When I was a kid, I remember the thing that I would look forward to the most would be when the family was going to pack up and leave and go somewhere. I was always glad to go. I didn’t have many friends when I was a kid. I had a really severe attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and mild autism. So I didn’t have any friends. When I was a kid, everybody else was my enemy. I wasn’t interested in school. I got my education in prison reading books.