For as long as we have been in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood—11 years next week—a homeless man lived near the top of Texas Street before it passes the Valero gas station at Madison. James was a fixture, seen day or night, every day, regardless of weather. If absent from his chair for any length of time, there would be chatter across social networks—in recent years NextDoor—asking where he was. Sickness or even police harassment were the more likely reasons for his absences.
Near the end of September, James vanished again, raising roarous concerns on NextDoor, until someone stated—and later was confirmed—that this homeless man had passed away. I didn’t know James, but some of my neighbors engaged him. “Friendly” and “kind” are two words used to describe him among many NextDoor posts and comments. I just took James for granted. He was as much a part of the scenery as the palm trees. As I would drive up Texas, or walk across the Adams Ave. bridge, he was an expected sight—and refreshing one, too. Something about his presence, and neighbors embracing his homelessness, was a triumph of humanity and dignity.