The Fourth Avenue entrance to Horton Plaza is a hotspot. Foot traffic is reliable, and every few minutes someone reaches into his pocket to kick down spare change to Jarrett Grace, one among a motley bunch of homeless people who take turns standing in the busy entryway.
'If I'm not here--you know what I'm sayin'--I'm over there at Wendy's,' Grace says as he shakes his oversized, plastic Wendy's cup and coaxes passersby to help him out by flashing his official veteran's ID card.
Grace is tall and strong. He wears a huge Kukui nut necklace, and if you introduce yourself and ask him about it, he'll talk nostalgically about the time he spent in Hawaii while in the Marine Corps. And he'll probably introduce himself to you in the poetic way he introduces himself to everyone:
'My name is Jarrett--J-A-double R-E-double T--and 'Grace,' as in amazing.'
He says he got out of the service with both mental and physical problems. He moved to San Diego to be closer to his family and got a job working in a supply warehouse. But he lost his job when his manager gave him a drug test.
'I lost my job on a humbug,' Grace says. 'Yeah, a humbug, something fucked up. I had a slight dirty, but you know, we had crystal [meth] fanatics in there, and they fired me for a slight dirty. I don't do no crystal. I do rock.' As in cocaine.
Grace has been on and off the streets for more than two decades. He says he's waiting to hear back on his Social Security Income (SSI) application. He applied for disability on the basis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and a bum knee. He was denied SSI for his schizophrenia and knee, but Grace thinks he has a good chance of getting the financial assistance for his bipolar disorder.
In the meantime, he deals with his homelessness in a hardened sort of way.
'I'm out here like a shock caller,' he says. 'I start shit, stop shit, whatever, you know what I'm sayin'? It's fucked up out here, though. [When] you have to wash your ass--all you gotta do, you go to the bathroom and wash your ass--I gotta go way on the other side of town to wash my ass.'