First, an update:
Since my first Op Ed for UrbDeZine, I’ve made the successful transition in careers I aimed to achieve: on December 21st, 2016 I celebrated my graduation as a Peer Support Specialist, a position that requires lived experience and empathy to assist and empower peers in their transition to wellness from mental challenges.
My passion for a solution to homelessness has remained active, focusing on research into legislation, such as activism in changing the classification of tiny homes on wheels by HUD and San Diego County to support for an initiative to use 1% of taxable recreational marijuana sales (Proposition 64) to build permanent supportive housing and advocacy for rent control in San Diego.
March 26th, 2017
I live in a building managed by Father Joe’s Villages, in a program of transitional housing to rebuild my finances and achieve independence through my recent employment in the mental healthcare industry. Much has changed at Father Joe’s since the transition to a Housing First model occurred in 2016: new staff, good facilities and the integration of Housing Navigators to complement the advocacy for a successful exit Case Managers do for clients.
Most of my peers welcome the opportunity to go out to free events and OH! San Diego 2017 presented an enjoyable two-day journey. Not many of the new acquaintances in the program have access to monthly bus passes, so I exercised mindfulness in planning at least one day to both have fun together and take photos for the contest announced by the San Diego Architectural Foundation and its sponsors.
East Village | Location # 28 – Basile Studio
An opaque shield in the skies marked the beginning of a brief series of guided and self-guided tours of local landmark buildings. This one was a score for my ability to add two extra people to the guided display of this very stark and modern building.
One sanguine exception to the usually droll character of the tour guide on this urban expedition was a new acquaintance who agreed to come with me: let’s name him “Spence” to avoid compromising his privacy. How good am I at keeping secrets? Part of my training in mental health includes a thorough acknowledgment of HIPAA, so establishing new friendships allows me the opportunity to be in professional mode about confidences, thus giving me more practice.
Not in memory has an outing with a fellow so full of character taken over the narration from the assigned volunteers with such hilarious success, all to my benefit. “Spence” is a former realtor whose business took a turn into nonexistence, but the goodies he shared with me through anecdotes about his days moving in the upper echelons of the Prime Real Estate market informed me, amused me and had the effect of making me feel quite near the inner circle of these mythic salescreatures.
Armed with a new empathy brought on by his naughty bits of information about the lives of movers and shakers involved in the Real Estate sales milieu, my usually detached visage now belied subtle hints of erudition and swagger when greeted by other participants at these haphazard encounters.
Banker’s Hill | Location # 6 – The Barcelona
Far beyond the glossy finishes of newly buffed surfaces and the professionalism of the keepers in this free and open event, my curiosity took me to more prosaic matters such as inquiring about the price to pay for the privilege of living in this amazing building. The Barcelona has the air of a revived roaring twenties hotel, with hints of gangsters and secrets in my imagination, which I found quite attractive.
My eyes and the modest camera built into the ZTE cellular phone were present to capture and ponder the scenes unfolding at the pace of a heartbeat per step. When “Spence” and I took a break after some greedy photography-snapping moments I imposed on him, some heat from a less shy sun above gave me an excuse for a pause to review so many images purloined between giggles and still seconds between comments and stories.
Banker’s Hill | Location # 1 – First Presbyterian Church of San Diego
Lunch could not be postponed any longer, so the best way to achieve a moment of communion with the Ladle Fellowship of the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego was to join less fortunate peers for an early dinner.
The work I witnessed in the communal area and the quality of the food – substantial, with seconds to spare – felt like a warm sprite within. More volunteers offer tickets to those requesting personal care items and clothing, including shoes and rain ponchos.
A last-minute impulse to obtain a blanket for another acquaintance on the homeless trail left “Spence” and I almost doubling our pace to collect experiences and sights of ancient treasures at the San Diego Historical Chinese Museum in the Gaslamp Quarter, our last stop.
Gaslamp | Location # 23 – San Diego Chinese Historical Museum
Small and tranquil, this museum was a rare find. Because of the rush in getting there before closing time, I could not take more photos of the interior, but I will on the first occasion I can find.
You can view the entire collection of excellent photographs from attendees of the event and my own with incarnadine cheek on Flickr.
Photo Credits: Photography by Orlando Barahona/Flickr