Last month, J.R. climbed aboard a bus in Sarasota, Fla., and took a four-day ride because he'd heard there was work in San Diego. Once here, it didn't take him long to find trouble, and he found it while minding his own business. He was just rising, at about 6:05 a.m., from a night's sleep in front of Horton Plaza when he was ticketed for illegal lodging.
Despite the rude welcome from the San Diego Police Department, J.R., who declined to give his last name, says San Diego seems like 'a friendly town,' and he'd like to make a go of it here.
'There's work,' he says, seated at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Broadway, holding out a sign that tells passers-by that he's homeless and hungry, 'but you've got to have an address and you've got to have a phone. Without either, you don't have nothin'.' Undaunted, he plans to see about a custodial job with the Chargers this week.
A 38-year-old man who has to be prodded to speak more than just few words, J.R. says he'd been doing construction for a couple of years-framing, drywall-before the work ran out. Before that, he worked for GTE installing phones for 10 years until Verizon came calling. 'When Verizon took over,' he says, 'they let us all go.'
J.R. says he doesn't go to a shelter because of where shelters are located. 'You don't walk down there at nighttime, and that's the only time you can get a bed,' he says. 'I'm not gonna deal with it.'
So he takes his chances outside in the Gaslamp.
'It's rough out here,' he says. 'It ain't easy sleeping on the street. It ain't easy sleeping on concrete. Most people got nice, comfortable beds. We don't. We got a nice slab of concrete.
'A lot of people turn up their noses. We're just people, too. We're just down on our luck, and we're trying to build our luck up,' he adds. 'Sure, we all want to better ourselves. We don't like it out here. It's cold out here at night.'
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