Street neighbor: Down on 13th, the East Village

Todd from Texas, homeless since 17

Todd is camped out with his woman. They, along with another ten or so “campers,” are situated along the wall of the closed business, Central Graphics, on 13th Street. When that business opens, they and their immediate neighbors move a few yards south and settle against a chain-link fence, beyond which can be seen stacks of lumber and some parked pickup trucks. No people are seen within this fenced area.

As to Todd’s female companion, when approached, she shuts down. Name? Go fly a kite. She relaxes under a blue plastic tarp, which provides an improvised tent. Todd is tattooed impressively in a number of places. He is willing to talk.

“I’ve been on the streets since I was 17. I was a sophomore in high school, living with my girlfriend and her mom, who finally kicked me out. I was forced to quit school because I didn’t want to lose my job. I couldn’t keep my job because I just couldn’t make it there every day. I lived in a little town in Texas. You know, like Mayberry. But I was kicked out of there because they said, ‘There’s no homeless here!’

“I left and tried downtown Houston. The drug influence was pretty intense. I got into it pretty heavy — crack, weed, everything. And then I got arrested for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.

As he speaks, the smell of beer eminates from the jury-rigged tent as well as from Todd — through his pores and sweat glands, but otherwise he appears and speaks as soberly as you please.

“I’ve been in San Diego for one year,” he announces. When asked if he’s accumulated any violations in the past year in San Diego, he says, “Yeah, one for ‘encroachment.’”

“Is that like illegal lodging?”

“Yeah, pretty much the same thing. Now, the cop who ticketed me is a known asshole around here, and when I showed up at the court date on the ticket, the judge took one look at the officer’s name and seemed to get angry. He crumpled up the ticket and tossed it toward the guy…you know, the guard — I mean the bailiff. That guy put it in the trash while the judge banged that little hammer and said, ‘Case dismissed.’ He didn’t ask me a damned thing.”

When asked, “Where do you go to the bathroom?” he cites Albertsons. “They’re pretty good about it. Smart and Final — no. They won’t give you a token if you look like me.” He looks, in fact, like the promising, blond-haired, all-American boy next door, except for the numerous tats as well as the fact that he wears no shirt or shoes and he is overdue for a shower. I assume he wears shirt and shoes into Albertsons.

He cites another location on 17th and Island: two Porto-San units I have seen in a thoroughly trashed condition. “They were put there by Waterman," Todd says. "You know who I’m talkin’ about? David. I just love David.”

In fact, David Ross is thoroughly known by everyone down here in “the Bottoms,” as they call it. He appears at city-council meetings regularly and is often televised.

“I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, David goes to, I guess, a lot of trouble — gotta be. To get those [Porta Potties] there and then ignorant people make a horrible mess in ’em.”

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Talk about the nothingness that is everything, huh, John? These guys are certainly into it up to their eyeballs.

Glad to see you are out and about and meeting the neighbors. East Village is changing and changing fast; not sure where this crowd is going to end up but I don't think staying put is going to be an option. The stench of urine is not listed as part of the package as the condos are being marketed and sold. And as much as Sister Jo (formerly Father Joe), much to her credit, is feeding them as fast as she can, they are coming in like they are on an assembly line. Whether recently arrived from Texas, or foreclosed to the streets, this is a wreck coming down the tracks and I think the crash is going to be nasty.

Be sure to let us know what it looks like.

The problem of homelessness goes back to biblical times, at least, and Jesus was one of the homeless, who were permitted to live on the rooftops in Jerusalem. Most of these people lived in two-bit hotels that were torn down to build the fancy condos, and have been Downtown for dozens of years. When rent goes up from $50 a week and that is all you have, where do you live? And, the train wreck? If Mitt Romney had been elected President, and gotten rid of Disability and Social Security, there would already be nationwide rioting and looting. There are ways to avert a Civil War, but nobody is interested.

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