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Homeless Look For Help And Hope At Project Homeless Connect

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Aired 1/6/11

About 600 people with no place to live came to Golden Hall, next to San Diego City Hall, on Wednesday to look for help. One of them was a man named Hollywood, and his story was simple.

About 600 people with no place to live came to Golden Hall, next to San Diego City Hall, on Wednesday to look for help. One of them was a man named Hollywood, and his story was simple.

"I lost my home. I lost my job. I lost my car… everything," he said.

Homeless men get haircuts at Project Homeless Connect in San Diego's Golden Hall, January 5, 2011.
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Above: Homeless men get haircuts at Project Homeless Connect in San Diego's Golden Hall, January 5, 2011.

Hollywood was hoping his luck would change at Project Homeless Connect. This was a day-long effort to give homeless people a few things they need to survive on the streets. Donors brought things like clothes, toiletries and rolling suitcases. Hopefully this day would also hook up the homeless with services that can make their lives better. Sister RayMonda Duvall is director of Catholic Charities in San Diego.

"What this event does for the community is have a central focus on homelessness,” she said, “and bring all of the services to one place so that maybe one woman or one man is going to find just the connection they need to move them to the next step.”

The next step? Duvall said maybe that’s permanent housing. Maybe it’s counseling or some free legal help.

On Wednesday, Golden Hall teemed with people and it was lined with temporary booths. I walked past a makeshift clinic where the San Diego Dental Society screened homeless people for dental problems. Folks from the East County Transitional Living Center spoke with people about housing. Legal Aid counseled people about their scrapes with the law. School district reps were there to tell homeless people how they can keep their kids in the same school, even as they move from one shelter to the next.

Cissy Fisher is vice president of the San Diego Housing Commission, which organized this year's event. She said, "Where we missed the boat a little bit is we didn't anticipate so many people would want haircuts. There's a long line for haircuts.”

I asked her about another line that was even longer. Was that for clothes, suitcases or something else? She told me that was the line to get lunch.

I didn't want lunch so I approached the line of men waiting to get haircuts. Several of the guys told me they needed to look more “presentable,” in hopes of landing some kind of job. Everybody's got a story. Bruce Bowman says he became homeless trying to look after a family member.

"Well, I've got a brother who is an alcoholic who also has PTSD,” he said. “He's also got pancreatic cancer. So I'm his caregiver and I have to follow him wherever he makes a go, and that usually puts us off in the streets."

"Lewis" wears a tweed fedora he got at Project Homeless Connect, San Diego, January 5, 2011.
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Above: "Lewis" wears a tweed fedora he got at Project Homeless Connect, San Diego, January 5, 2011.

Another man told me he had a home in Arizona but he's homeless after serving jail time in San Diego and not being able to leave, because of his probation. Most people in Golden Hall told me they were looking for jobs and housing. Two men who said they used to be homeless were manning the booth of the East County Transitional Living Center. One of them, Sean Oliver, said the center has vouchers for emergency housing. They also offer a transitional housing program – the “discipleship” program – that lasts 90 days.

"For 90 days, no reading material other than the bible. No telephone calls. No appointments. It's really separating yourself from the world to get yourself in a mind-frame to change your life, to change those patterns," said Oliver.

There are about 4,500 homeless people in the city of San Diego and there's only so much Project Homeless Connect can do for them. Tom Stubberud is one of the co-chairs the project. He said just giving the homeless respite for the day, to let them come inside and have lunch… that's something.

"I'm also amazed at the general community's response,” said Stubberud. “People's hearts are really big and really in the right place, and we get these amazing outpourings of volunteerism and donations.

One of the things people donated was hats... dozens of blue-green, tweed fedoras. They were a popular. So if you see someone in downtown San Diego wearing a tweed fedora, they probably went to Project Homeless Connect.

Comments

Avatar for user 'GeoffPage1'

GeoffPage1 | January 6, 2011 at 6:06 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

When I listened to this report on the radio this morning, the following line really stood out: "For 90 days, no reading material other than the bible."

I just have to ask why, as a reporter, you did not question this particular policy? Why is the bible and religion being force fed to these people? Churches take great pride in blowing their horns about helping the homeless but it comes at a price and is really not truly selfless as they like to make believe. Why can't a church just do good, provide the food, shelter, and clothing, and leave religion to the individual. What happens if they come upon a poor soul reading Dickens or Hemingway or a book by an NPR reporter? Are these items confiscated?

I just wish you had addressed this our source.

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Avatar for user 'GeoffPage1'

GeoffPage1 | January 6, 2011 at 7:50 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

My last line was supposed to read "I just wish you had addressed this with your source."

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 8, 2011 at 5:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Tom:
I will never forget the interview between you and a young wife, who had been rendered homeless ny the wildfires of 2007 on a session of "THESE DAYS".
I seem to recall that her first name ight have been Carol.
This affluent suburban housewife possessed all of the creature comforts of upper-middle class life in a moderately luxurious house and neighborhood of San Diego. She stated in a most poignant manner how she could NEVER pass a homeless person again, without a well-considered change of attitude toward the homeless.
Fate, poor-planning, the wrath of thegods, building in the wrong place at the wrong time--one can assess the reason for her situation any way one chooses.
But, "Carol" was suddenly homeless and helpless at that moment in time in 2007. I hope she has recovered her life. She realized that one has to be literally crazy--irrational,- TO CHOOSE TO BE HOMELESS.Hopefully "Carol" had insurance, a loving supportive family and friends, wisdom, and availability of needed resources to make the necessary choices to rebuild her life as she chose. Choosing to be homeless is about as rational as choosing suicide.
It's simply a slower death of mind, body, and spirit.

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 10, 2011 at 12:56 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Does living on the street serve as prima faci evidence of an irrational mind at work, which is bent on self-destruction, ultimately self-extinction.
Well--- the largest percentage of people without housing are those who are physically and/or emotionally ill and far outside the mainstream of society. Add to that group those who are addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. Next, there are those who by reason of circumstance--(a WILDFIRE PERHAPS). Theyjust don't have any money--AND no job, nor income from entitlement programs--they simply must rely for their next meal from the trash bin down the street. All of these groups have a high degree of overlap.--the physically and mentally ill; the addicted; the indigent. For those who fit one or more of the above categories, there is no element of choice, as to whether or not to "GET OFF THE STREET". THE ONLY LIFE THAT THEY KNOW IS life on the streets, wandering during the day, secreted in a dark corner during the night. They are hostage to their illness, addiction, indigence, lack of "support systems".
So is homelessness never a choice for any person? Well, perhaps in the case of some people who have run away from a society that just has no room for them. But what a costly price life these folks pay to find their ESCAPE on the street. Thes are the social rejects. They say: "To hell with the society has that has rejected them.They will pre-empt their rejection by society-- by rejecting society FIRST. They will assert their own will, by defying the norms of society and creating their own micro-society.
Since they are already misfits, they will fit in where they Alone are the masters of their own destiny. The problem is that these folks become masters of an insane existence.
Their"choice" involves living daily in fear, vulnerability, uncertainty, pain, discomfort, hunger, despair, alienation from all others, even alienation from themselves, and ultimately a lonely death among strangers.
For these folks there is no past, no future,--only the intensity of a never-ending present moment which consists of the private WAR to survive another day, another hour, another moment alone in a world that even the greatest among us have had difficulty coping with successfully.

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | January 10, 2011 at 2:52 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

The question of free will poses a quandary when it comes to many realities that relate to politics and law. Does any woman "choose" to be a prostitute? Do gay people choose to be gay? Do any homeless people choose to be homeless, and are you able to exercise free will when you are not of sound mind? The exercise of free choice is something we celebrate in democracy. But deciding what constitutes a reasonable set of alternatives, that allows freedom of choice, is a topic of debate.

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 10, 2011 at 5:36 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Tom:
Say for for some cataclysmic* reason I were to be homeless. While living on the streets I can conceive of a situation in which if I were offered a warm bed, a roof over my head, three meals a day in a fairly stable environment with a regular daily schedule, I'd respectfully decline the offer.---If the alternative were accomodations in the County Jail, I'd opt for taking my chances on the street.So, yes I'd choose the street to incarceration. Freedom to live as my own person, free of being forced to behave 24/7in a manner dictated by others
is a value which I give priority over the "security" of the county lock-up.
On the other hand, if a jovial businessman passed me by on the street and offered me a job as a radio announcer for a major broadcasting network, I imagine I'd be quite willing to fold up my tent and vacate the street scene.
---As far as the issue of free will and mental competence goes, society appropriates the right to itself to summarily confine--hospitalize for at least 72 hours any person it deems to be a danger to him/herself and/ or others. Police, EMTs, social workers, etc. all possess that discretionary power over others. I mention this to demonstrate that society has for decades recognized cognitive incompetence, lack of control over one's will as reasonable cause to confine an individual. Too bad that guy in Arizona was not discovered to be a danger to others in time. Somehow, a mass murderer evaded detection once again by society's keepers of the peace. Greg

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