Jana sits on a blanket beneath a tree in the northwest corner of Balboa Park. She's surrounded by her boyfriend—snoozing under a pink comforter, despite the heat—a couple of backpacks and her friend's dog, Blondie.
Jana's been homeless for five years. Her last job was at a Shell station in Encinitas, where she managed a 24-hour shift three days a week. When the owner sold the business, she lost her job and "fell into the tailspin," taking up with a guy she met who was living in a squat.
"Part of it was just laziness," Jana says. "Just falling into it and being in that mental thing where I lost the job, not really wanting to go through it again."
These days, she says, she and her man keep pretty much to the Hillcrest area.
"The Hillcrest neighborhood is real tight-knit," Jana explains. "Certain people, they leave and come back--they're still just gonna be in the community."
They spend their days in the park and bathe in a nearby apartment Jacuzzi by night. "It feels really nice in the summer," Jana says. "As hot as it's been, you really feel like you want to wash up."
Jana's friend Allie appears—she's Blondie's mom—walking up the hill from the direction of the canyon, wearing red-rimmed coke-bottle glasses and a goofy grin. She's also homeless, but she's got a job working for "a mad scientist," as Jana describes. According to Jana, the guy gives her tests—like trying to figure out combination locks—and pays her a few bucks for every one she figures out.
Allie plops on the ground, rubs Blondie's ears and coos doggie noises.
"Oh, we had such an exciting day," Jana tells her. "He likes to eat the little dark-haired Chihuahua, 'cause it looks like a squirrel."
"Oh, no!" laughs Allie.
"Her mama got all scared and picked her up, and we caught a field mouse," Jana reports.
Jana's boyfriend wakes up, hangs out for a while, and then joins another homeless man on a different blanket, where they share some watermelon.
"It's interesting—there's a positive side to it, too," Jana says as she contemplates homelessness. Thinking about going back "inside" is in many ways overwhelming, she says. "I would like a place where I can drop in, take a shower once in a while and watch a little TV," Allie chimes in. "But I would only be in there for, like, two, three hours. I'd still pitch a tent in the backyard."