It's a beautiful Friday afternoon, 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Jarvis and one of his buddies are sitting on a small patch of grass next to an office building, trying to avoid direct sunlight while drinking tall cans of malt liquor. A few minutes later, they light up a joint.
“Hey, man, can you help us out with about five bucks?” Jarvis asks.
Originally from the Houston area, he's a 46-year-old “full-blooded American” with a thick beard and a deep Texas drawl. He says he's been on the street for about 12 years, although it might have been longer than that. “My mom and dad, they was alcoholics—they fought all the time, stabbin' each other…. Then when I was 16, they told me, ‘You gotta go,'” he says.
While he's not too eager to discuss the rest of his family, the few details he reveals are horrific. “My brother's dead,” he says. “He hooked up with some bitch named Crazy Judy, and she shot him in the head with his pistol.”
After spending more than 30 years in Texas, Jarvis moved to Panama City Beach, Fla. Recently, he decided to make his way to San Diego. “I just walked over here from Florida—it took me three months. I got here Christmas Eve, and I wasn't here three days before I went to jail: open container,” he says, referring to the state law prohibiting drinking alcohol in public.
Jarvis claims he has trouble finding work due to his lack of identification. “I'm a carpenter, man. I do concrete work. I do plumbing. I'm an electrician… but now I have no ID. And I can't get ID without ID, so I'm in a catch-22.” He says he lost his ID on the beach in Florida, and since 9/11, nobody will hire him without it.
Finding food is easier than finding work, he says. “We're cardboard technicians,” he boasts, half-jokingly. “You ain't gonna go hungry in this state.” His acquaintance chimes in, “If you go hungry in this country, something's wrong. You can always get something to eat.”
But even when things get rough, Jarvis prefers to be out on his own. “I don't go to homeless shelters,” he says. “I don't like to be around a lot of people. In fact, you're making me nervous right now.”
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