Its Memorial Day, and several U.S. military veterans are among a handful of peoplemostly menkilling time along a linear park that follows a portion of train track south of the intersection of Kettner Boulevard and Broadway in Downtown San Diego. Its a gorgeous, breezy day, and this group of homeless folks spends it making small talk and, for some, sipping on cans of Bud.
Among them is Manny, a 45-year-old native of Guam who spent four years in the Army right after graduating high school. He enlisted because he wanted to see the world, but other than a stint in Germany, he didnt see much beyond the borders of military bases in Georgia and South Carolina. He said he saw a lot more of the world while riding the rails across the United States and living the hobo life years after he was honorably discharged. The Army put him in parachute training; he wanted to be a mechanic. He left without a marketable skill.
Its mostly infantry I didno technical things or trade at all, he said.
Manny, clad in jeans and a brown hoodie and wearing dark sunglasses, says he ended up in San Diego because the climate here is similar to that of his home island. He worked at several jobs after arriving, including one for three years before the company, which manufactured bullet casings, was sold. He says he had to stop working because of his diabetes, which runs throughout his family.
If I do a job right now, for instance, within, like, maybe four or five hours, he says, my legs start swelling and I start getting bad headaches.
He was married oncehe and his family lived in Lemon Grovebut that didnt work out. He has three adult children who check in on him from time to time. Theyve offered to take him in, but he declines.
Mannys been on the streets for the past five years, and hes tired of it. Hed like to find a home in the suburbs somewhere, and he hopes the disability checks for which hes on a waiting list will help him afford a modest place.It may be a raunchy place, but at least Id have a roof over my head, he says. The elements are really taking a toll on me.