Welcome to Viva-city and Downtown San Diego
Sandra Simmons, Viva-city

Life in the City

-by Sandra Simmons


It’s time. The only question is where. You see, I’m an aimless soul.

When an adage truly has an effect on me, I collect the words on whatever medium within arm’s length. And, there it remains, waiting to be rediscovered.

I noticed the lead notation on a slip of paper carefully tucked away amongst twenty years of financial records. I found the words profound and a perfect start to this month’s topic. Little did I know, those words came from within me sometime during the recent years. The words are never truer than now.

I am an aimless soul; I am homeless.

With the greater part of my lifelong collected possessions packed away in storage pods and my car entirely crammed with daily essentials, I have been traveling purposeless between friends and family for nearly three months. I’m fortune to have an amazing support group. The aimless souls on our city sidewalks obviously do not.

When I first arrived Downtown, I remember hurriedly walking passed abandon warehouses between Third and Union along Market and Island. Cardboard condos littered the previously operational loading docks and sidewalks below. The occupants and all their belongings were securely tucked away from sight.

Homeless Man in San DiegoQuickly, the distressing feelings turned to annoyance, as at every turn, these dwellers would approach and beg for spare change.

There was a campaign, at one point, to educate residents not to give the destitute money, instead we were instructed to hand them a printed card summarizing social service programs offering food, shelter, and other assistance. As you can image, this didn’t go over too favorably!

Over time, annoyance morphed into turning a blind eye. I stopped seeing the individuals with their hands extended.

The city landed the coveted Republican National Convention, warehouses were razed, parking lots paved, the Children’s Park constructed, and urbanization began in full force. Displaced, the homeless picked up their belongings and moved as a pack to East Village. There they resided almost unnoticed until trendy revitalization began peppering the neighborhood.

Just how many drifting individuals live in our Downtown neighborhoods? As required by US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a physical Point-in-Time count was conducted on January 30, 2009. The count revealed 55% of the 7,892 county vagrants resided within the city limits; only 1,865 truly without a home. With roughly 1,050 living in District 2, there are simply no published numbers for Downtown.

If all of our city councilmembers agree that homelessness is a regional issue, why do they continually place the temporary winter shelter in our neighborhood? Last year, didn’t they promise to assemble the tent outside of Downtown? And in realty, do those inhabiting our sidewalks want to live in a regulated shelter?

I wonder…Are the homeless aimless or layabouts?

It’s time to resolve this important issue. The tired argument that all services, and therefore all homeless should be Downtown, is not longer viable.

Each district should find a suitable site to provide services and housing to the ever drifting population. It stands to reason, if you build it, they will come. -November 2009

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