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For People On The Streets, Staying Dry During The Rain Is A Constant Struggle

The Alpha Project's Quarlo McSwain cut a sheet of plastic in the rain, Jan. 1...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS

Above: The Alpha Project's Quarlo McSwain cut a sheet of plastic in the rain, Jan. 14, 2019.

When it rains people go inside to escape the elements. But some people living on the streets do not have anywhere to go.

Plastic sheets are a huge help in keeping people and their belongings dry when it rains.

"When it rains real tough, they have their sleeping bags or their tents or whatever, but it wont stop the water," said Quarlo McSwain with the Alpha Project. "So the plastic they’ll use to cover up if they have cell phones or computers. A lot of them have cell phones and computers and stuff like that. So they use that to cover up their clothes, anything that’s most important to them."

McSwain, known as Q, has been working with the Alpha Project for 20 years. He knows what it's like to live on the streets.

"I’ve been out on the streets a long time," McSwain said. "I’m 45 years old and I’ve done a lot out here. Just being not the right person — you know what I mean? Now I am the right person. I’m trying to do right and do right by everybody else and give back to people who need it."

Everyday McSwain goes out to check on people who are on the streets. One place that is usually full when it is raining is underneath a bridge on Commercial Street.

"When it rains this is a little safe haven (from) the rain for a while," McSwain said. "The police won’t bother them too much because (the police) know they’re trying to stay dry."

RELATED: San Diego Homeless Shelter Prepares For Rain

Tami Spinks has been living on and off the streets for the last six years. We ran into her trying to stay dry under the Commercial Street bridge.

"This is one of the best ways (to stay dry) right here, other than being indoors of course," Spinks said. "But you know, even a tent is never completely waterproof."

Recently, overnight temperatures have been hovering in the mid 30s to low 40s.

"I wished that I had a place to stay out of the elements, but I don’t have money for a hotel or anything either," Spinks said as she started to tear up. "I wouldn’t have picked this bridge but, you know, it’s a definite dry place to be anyway. I don’t have a tent."

Spinks said her health is getting worse and wishes she could find some type of permanent housing.

"Some people are down on their luck and they really are working toward moving up. Some people are just kind of mashed between two rocks," Spinks said as she wiped away tears. "Some people seem to like it — I don’t know why they would like it in the wintertime."

Having lived on the streets himself, McSwain said he understands what people here are dealing with.

"What I’m seeing right over here is just a bunch of good people that are down on their luck right now and need whatever we can give — or whatever anyone can give, for that matter," McSwain said. "Clothes, bedding, sleeping bags, toiletries, anything someone can give them, that’s what they need right now. And a roof over your head."

For People On The Streets, Staying Dry During The Rain Is A Constant Struggle

When it rains, people living on the streets scramble to keep themselves and their belongings dry. The Alpha Project hands out plastic sheets to help mitigate impacts from the rain.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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