I’m lucky to call myself a native San Diegan. I grew up in a suburb that is not unlike most suburbs across the country. You know the kind of place I’m talking about – the shopping centers are all painted beige, the front doors are rarely locked, the kids cause harmless trouble by TP-ing houses and there is one homeless individual who you consistently encounter.
My community’s homeless neighbor sat, and still sits, every day outside a gas station with a sign that reads, “Anything helps.”
I’d occasionally give him a dollar bill or the carrots my mom stuffed in my lunch bag and be on my way. My friends would do the same. I never left that gas station thinking about where he was going to sleep that night. He was static – no less of a staple of my community than those beige buildings.
But here I am, five years removed from living in that neighborhood, and still thinking about that man at the gas station.
My outlook on San Diego’s homeless population began to change when I moved to Pacific Beach and saw people setting up their “beds” outside every closed storefront. A year later, I found Mixte and had the honor of working with San Diego’s largest homeless services provider, Father Joe’s Villages.
I began writing blogs about people who found the courage to come to Father Joe’s Villages and emerged as self-sufficient San Diegans. I created infographics explaining the incredible impact of Father Joe’s services. I attended press conferences announcing cutting-edge programs that change the lives of people across San Diego County. I felt a sense of hope knowing that people like the Father Joe’s Villages team and their volunteers were working every day to end the cycle of homelessness. That had to be enough, right?
The more I learned, the more I realized that this one organization doing the right thing is an excellent start, but it’s not enough. This is especially true in San Diego, which has the fourth largest population of homeless people in the country and third largest for veterans. It’s plain and simple – as a community we are failing the people who need our assistance and compassion the most.
Today, a coalition of media organizations banded together to create San Diego Homeless Awareness Day. In newspapers, on TV, in magazines, on the radio you’ll find coverage focused on subjects surrounding homelessness issues. These gatekeepers realized the severity of homelessness in our city and decided to use their resources to make a difference.
Will you follow in their footsteps?
It’s easy to isolate yourself from the problem when all you see is a man sitting outside a gas station, but there are 8,700 people who are homeless on any given night in San Diego facing the same reality. Learn their stories, do what you can to help and together, we can give hope to the homeless.
Photo courtesy of Father Joe’s Villages.