In the heat of a Sunday afternoon, Ron, a blue denim cap pulled low over his brow, lounges on a bench at San Diego Harbor, nearly in the shadow of the U.S.S. Midway. A younger man, clad in a T-shirt, Dickies shorts and New Balance sneakers, paces intensely around several pieces of baggage, intermittently trying to get the attention of a third man who appears to be asleep on the grass nearby. Then, without a word, the intense man climbs aboard his bike and rides off, leaving Ron alone in the sun.
Ron, who'll turn 61 this month, sports a thick white beard that would make him an ideal Santa Claus. His laugh, while not robust, sounds a happy one. He's a member of a fairly large community of homeless people who spend time at the harbor amongst the tourists.
A newspaper pressman by trade, Ron spent most of his first 47 years in Kalamazoo, Mich. His father was a superintendent of a 'farm' for 'nutcases' there, as Ron puts it. He has no family left. His siblings have all died--an older sister in a car accident and two younger brothers in Vietnam. A Marine himself for two years, he was spared a tour during the war. Throughout his 20s, he was married to a woman who suffered from multiple sclerosis. She died about a decade into the marriage.
Laid off from the Kalamazoo Gazette due to modernization, Ron thought he had a job lined up in San Diego, but 'just as I was getting there, they were sending everybody home,' he says. 'I don't know exactly what happened.' His search for work ever since has been largely unsuccessful, and he's been 'pretty much' unemployed and homeless for the entire duration--almost 14 years--of his time in San Diego. At his age, he's resigned to a life on the streets.
'I don't see big piles of money falling from the sky any time soon,' he says with a smile.
Ron says he gets no money from the government, so he has no income at all. He eats lunch at St. Vincent's and finds dinner at the Salvation Army or at various churches. He says he'd likely make use of a shelter bed if one were available.
Offered a little bit of money in exchange for his time, Ron politely declines. 'It's not necessary,' he says. 'Thank you.'