A Teen’s Perspective on Homelessness

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Submitted by Jay Morris


I need your help. I am trying to help solve a major problem and I’m asking for your assistance.

I want all your extra hats, caps, beanies and visors. Let me explain.

It is 8 AM on a sunny Saturday morning in San Diego. My dad and I are getting ready to go to the downtown Little Italy Farmers’ Market so we can buy our favorite breakfast item, a crepe. The crepe in question is known as the Cali-crepe collision, priced at $9, consisting of cheese, bacon, avocado, and egg. It is so good that the 45 minute car round trip across the bridge is worth it. This breakfast tradition unveiled a surprising opportunity for me back in 2014.

You see, after our crepe breakfast, my dad drives home through downtown San Diego, right into the heart where the San Diego homeless population has grown exponentially. The 17th street on-ramp to Highway 5 was a blight of trash, shopping carts and the epicenter of where the homeless lived. It’s only a couple miles from my home, but it is worlds away from resembling life here in Coronado. This journey to understand and try to learn more about and help the San Diego Homeless population has far surpassed setting out to have breakfast with my Dad each week.

Three years ago, when I was in 9th grade, when driving home from the Farmers’ Market, I would look away from the tarps and shopping carts lining the sidewalks, the trash strewn everywhere, and the homeless people walking around in an apocalyptic world. To say the least, I was uncomfortable. I did not want to think about the struggles they go through every day. For months, I kept seeing the same sights with little to no change. I started to question the city’s role in resolving and helping the homeless find better shelter and more sanitary living conditions. The homeless population was estimated at 8500 in 2014 and peaked at over 9100 in 2017. I wanted to help find a solution or, at the very least, contribute to the betterment of their conditions.

One day, my dad suggested that our family had too many ball caps in our garage. Over a few years, it is surprising how many you can collect. We had over 20 hats that were stacked on hooks in our garage. We had ball-caps from corporate conventions, golf tournaments, baseball games, colleges and universities, football games, and other events where ball-caps were distributed.

I suggested the next Saturday morning, after our crepe breakfast, we go around and distribute these two dozen caps to the homeless near 17th Street. Since I felt uncomfortable and unsafe handing them out alone, my dad said he’d shadow me and run interference if something bad occurred. I expected mayhem when I approached the first group of homeless people, thinking they would just take my bag of caps away from me. Nothing could be further from my expectations. The homeless I met were polite, gracious and respectful. They loved the selections of hats and each wanted to pick a hat that was comfortable and best met their needs for protection from the sun. After we finished giving all the caps away, I wanted to do it all over again.

The following week, I went to my neighbors in Coronado and asked them if they had any hats or caps they would like to give away. I received about twenty caps from our neighbors alone, which got me thinking, I bet many households in Coronado have a similar situation regarding an overabundance of caps. How many do you have?

Each Saturday morning that I traveled downtown to distribute caps, I came away with a better understanding of the homeless issue. I created a website, capsforthehomeless.com, and started blogging and writing articles to help raise awareness. Over the last three years, my desire to help and my comfort level with this societal challenge have matured.

Within the website, I chronicle my experiences from distributing to the homeless to writing articles on the state of homelessness in San Diego and worldwide. The simplest things can impact a person in need. If you would like to make a donation of unused or used ball caps, please reach out to me. If you would like to learn more about my perspective on the downtown homeless, please visit my website where I have written some articles and blogs. Or if you have questions, visit my website www.capsforthehomeless.com or email me at jayderekmorris01@gmail.com.

Jay Morris

 

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Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is thrilled to call Coronado home and raise her two children here. In her free time enjoys hitting the gym, reading, and walking her dog around the “island.”Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com