The Sleeper

I rarely photograph San Diego homeless, as a silent sign of respect. But, today, one gentlemen so surprised me that I felt compelled to take the shot—well, several. Walking East on Meade Ave., I saw him sleeping on the sidewalk across the way, where Mission cuts diagonally—think 45 degrees—from the intersection at Park Blvd.

The sleep mask is what intrigued me. He looked so unusually comfortable, lying on the cement, which was surprising, too. Foot and vehicular traffic is fairly brisk, and noisy, on a Friday afternoon; then there is the bus stop—a couple meters away, at most. Yet he looked so serene and lay motionless, but in an open space where homeless are otherwise uncommon.

I pulled out Leica Q2 Monochrom for a shot behind, as I passed. Timestamp on the Featured Image is 2:56 p.m. PDT. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec, 28mm. I circled around the block, because a frontal view would make the moment, particularly because of the sleep mask. But I flubbed the hipshot; he is outside the range of focus. But that’s what I got, so the second portrait more provides context and is presented composed as taken. Vitals: f/5, ISO 200, 1/1250 sec, 28mm; 3:05 p.m.

The gent was extremely tanned, and his white beard and hair weren’t overgrown. As such, he could be new to the street—and one of many. Renovictions rise like crazy, locally, which significantly has increased the number of older homeless. From a May 6, 2024 news story by local reporter Sarah Alegre:

According to Paul Downey, CEO of Serving Seniors, people 55 and up experiencing homelessness are the fastest-growing cohort among people on the streets in San Diego. Data from the Regional Task Force on Homelessness shows that since March, over 8,860 seniors are homeless or on the cusp, a number that has risen by over 170 since the start of the year and by 600 since January 2023.

The man I saw today stretched out on a space not more than a stone’s throw from the Winslow, which occupies land where once was a church that gave out free food to the needy on most Friday afternoons. The 379-unit apartment complex is something of a monument to unaffordable housing. City officials claim there isn’t enough housing, and recent zoning changes encourage more construction—and nearly none renting for prices within budget of typical citizens.

Residences currently available at the Winslow start at $2,536 monthly for 509-square-foot studios and go up to $4,965 for 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. However, some of the two-and-twos rent for as much $5,875. None are available.

There is something poignant and poetic about this reasonably neat gent seemingly sleeping homeless so close to a dwelling cathedral where worship wealthier Millennials and Gen Zers. No disrespect, but I miss the church, which on a different Friday could have given this fellow something to eat.