It somehow seems appropriate that 45-year-old Daniel—who's been homeless for nearly 10 years—should spend his days in Balboa Park reading James Michener's The Drifters . The novel, published in 1971, is about six hedonistic young runaways who travel the globe seeking meaning in a world that has shown them that they have little control over their own lives.
"I like Michener—he's a good writer—and Keats," Daniel says. "I've only read a couple of Tolstoy, but so far I like him, too."
Daniel was living in Ohio when he became homeless; his two kids, an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, still live there, but he's no longer allowed to contact them.
Daniel says he has a degenerative spinal disease that keeps him in chronic pain and unable to work.
"I used to be real active, used to love playing football, hiking, camping—all that," he reminisces. "There's nothing like going down a nice big hill on a 10-speed and not using your brakes until you get to the very bottom."
But his back pain keeps getting worse, he says, to the point that he can no longer walk to the few places downtown that offer food and shelter.
"What's sad is the truth of the matter is I'm going to die out here and nobody cares," he says bluntly. "I've lost faith in everything. Everything I was raised to believe in: God, my country, my fellow man."
Daniel admits that he's been suicidal for a long time but says suicide is the coward's way out, and he's not going out that way.
"If I kill myself, they win," Daniel says. "There's still a small, small spark inside my heart that some people still care."
Editor's note: This is the third installment of a new feature. Its intent is to put a face and a name to homelessness. It's that simple.