The following audio clips were collected from homeless individuals in downtown San Luis Obispo who were approached with different questions regarding their experience on the streets. As an overlooked part of our community, the homeless population holds a wealth of wisdom regarding the obstacles that anyone else would face in their daily lives.
What is the biggest problem in your life right now?
David Danielson, a 56-year-old man from Cayucos, has lived most of his life in San Luis Obispo. A couple years ago he lost complete movement on the left side of his body due to a stroke, rendering him incapable of holding a job. After relearning how to walk and talk, Danielson now spends his days on the streets listening to the radio and visiting the park.
“I am going be honest about this. I mean, if I could quit drinking, if I could quit drinking, I could probably live indoors again. But I do not want to be sober and disabled and homeless. It does not sound like a good idea to me. So I drink, because I just want to feel numb. I do not want to feel anything. I sleep on concrete, no blankets, no nothing, just curl in a ball and do the best of it, and do the best that I can. It is not comfortable. I mean, its pretty miserable. Get up, grab a bottle, do it all over again and get numb, and then you feel better.”
What is your message to the world?
Valerie Derby, a 52-year-old mother from New York, came to San Luis Obispo for the great weather. She lives on the streets with her husband, struggling to scrape together a couple dollars every day to just stay alive. More than anything in the world, the only thing Derby wants is to be truly happy.
“Look to God, because he helps you get through it.”
Have you ever been in love?
Jesse James Morrison, a 42-year-old native of Los Osos used to have a house under Section 8, a low-income housing aid program. Since then, he has had a hard time getting off the street because of the assumptions society makes toward homelessness, such as being constantly drunk. Morrison’s biggest problem right now is his feet, which are severely swollen due to the prolonged periods of walking in shoes that do not fit.
“The last girl that I was with, Michelle, I completely fell in love with her, but, just the way she put things, I caught, in my opinion, I got her on the rebound and she was too, she was still having feelings for the man that she was widowed by. He was a lawyer in Atascadero State Hospital. He put child molesters and stuff like that away and kept them in there. But, I thought that was one of the things that would keep us together, but due to inflictions that each one of us had and situations with our families, which I divorced my family because they were bigots. She just lives too far away and her infliction caused her to do things that she normally would not do and took her away from me for the rest of my life.”
What was the happiest day of your life?
Ben Burns, a 28-year-old man from Atascadero, spends his time with other homeless individuals in San Luis Obispo. It was interesting to see the connections he has within the homeless population, especially when I mentioned names and discovered that Burns regularly spends time with Squidward, Greg and Scotland. Although he feels that homelessness is a lonely experience, Burns always remembers the importance of being patient and kind to others.
“The happiest day of my life, the day I looked around and I was actually happy with my surroundings enough to be homeless and not just want to, you know, and get all really dark and think I need to call the mental hospital or something. That’s when I was happy.”