June 3 2008 07:55 PM

Our weekly series putting faces on San Diego's homeless

homeless-prime

Joe Gomez is 46, looks 36 and won't live to see 56. He was told four months ago that he has three to five years left, partially a result of being HIV-positive but mostly due to a rapidly deteriorating liver ravaged by years of drinking. "My doctor compared it to a stream," Joe says. "Once you go past a certain point, like going over a waterfall, there's no going back."

He says this matter-of-factly as he lies on a blanket in the grass across from the San Diego Zoo. A beer bottle concealed inside a brown paper bag rests against his chest. An open book, The Power of Simple Prayer by Joyce Meyer, sits face-down in front of him.

"I didn't think it'd affect me that much, but it does bother me," Joe says of his prognosis. "The alcohol helps. There's no reason not to drink at this point."

Joe came to San Diego from Dallas when he was 18 to meet his birth mother for the first time. He finished high school at Monte Vista in Spring Valley before joining the Air Force and becoming a military policeman.

"Law enforcement," he chuckles gently. "I know, it's weird."

Joe spent "two years and two months" in the Air Force before being honorably discharged after "I started having trouble with this," he says, motioning toward the paper bag.

His mother lives in Hemet, but the two no longer keep in touch. The only family member Joe has regular contact with is a younger sister living in Joshua Tree. He plans to attend her wedding in September.

Joe's been homeless for 10 to 15 years. His disability check gives him enough money to live on, but not enough for an apartment.

"I've tried," he says, "but it doesn't make much sense to spend all my money on a place with nothing in it. It would just all go to rent and nothing else."

Joe keeps to himself mostly and spends his days in city libraries when he isn't using his bus pass to travel to the various churches and charities around town.

"It's pretty easy being homeless in San Diego as long as the weather's good," he says. "You can always find a place to get food and clothes, and I go to the VA for my medical."

He is soft-spoken but cheerful as the sun begins to droop in the sky. He isn't resigned to his fate. But he's made peace with it.

"This is pretty much what my life is going to be," Joe says. "It isn't much of a life but I'm making it one."

Calendar

  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • The former local boy and creator of the highly influential blog, Advanced Style, will be signing and discussing his third book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, which features inspiring pictures and stories...
  • C.J. Chenier and Bonsoir Catin headline this annual Cajun inspired festival. Also enjoy 10,000 pounds of crawfish, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Held at Spanish Landing Park, across from the...
  • A Cinco de Mayo party featuring $2 tacos, cocktails and live music from Bostich+Fussible, Javiera Mena and Gepe
  • A spoken word showcase hosted by English instructor Karla Cordero and her City College students. There will also be a special reading from poet Mercedez Holtry, as well as an art and photography show....
  • Widely known as host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and for his role in the Showtime dramedy Weeds, Kevin Nealon brings his unique humor back to the stand-up stage
  • New works from over a dozen UCSD undergraduate students. Participating artists include Charity Algarme, Richard Lin, Joseph Maas, Ignatius Nguyen, and more
  • This video art exhibition from UCSD MFA candidate Stefani Byrd features two installations that explore the themes of breath, mediation, and the nature of time. Takes place in the VAF Performance Space,...
See all events on Thursday, May 5