Homessness has become a big bone of contention among San Diegans, but this organizer says he can help.
Christopher Service is a member of the LGBT community and a veteran. His story is like so many homeless vets in San Diego who have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to reclaim their place in mainstream society.
But there are still men and women who struggle every day without homes, living on the concrete; no longer battling a foreign enemy, rather fighting ridicule from business owners, and the citizens who consider them urban decay.
“I myself do happen to be gay and live with my partner in Ocean Beach,” Christopher told SDGLN. “Robert helped pull me out of a dark time in my life and has been a welcome support to my endeavors. So many of us have difficulty reintegrating after our time in service, throw that into the extreme cost of living in California. My goal is to provide a safe place for the heroes who come home when and if they need it.”
Although Christopher would like to single-handedly help them all, he knows this is an impossibility so he has come up with a different plan which includes having a few beers at The Brick Bar in Hillcrest.
“The Beer Garden Social is the first of many ongoing events I'll be starting to not only develop community awareness but as a vehicle for continual fundraising,” Christopher told SDGLN. “March 15 will be a soft open event testing the waters for a weekly Beer Garden Social every Wednesday beginning March 29.”
Christopher is the Managing Director for the non-profit veteran assistance program called Service 4 Life.
Originally Christopher wanted it to be an organization which would help vets find homes, but it has become an aggregation of many concerns.
He says that the program has evolved from simply trying to get vets off the street but also assist in finding them employment.
“A few years ago, I was coming into a similar lack of housing situation myself,” said Christopher, “The VA has a few programs though few of them are sustainable.”
They meet each week with two main goals. First, to take part in a social counseling session where they convey concerns and plan resolutions.
“The second requirement is maintaining twenty hours of weekly employment, volunteer hours or a combination thereof,” Christopher explains. “Many service members have difficulty taking handouts regardless of their personal needs, Service 4 Life is designed to provide the base necessities needed for them to help themselves.”
There is a cost of $25 per person per day says Christopher, but much of that can be offset by the veterans themselves.
He adds: “Proceeds from the event will be used to supply the necessary capital to keep the organization growing.“
Recently communities such as Hillcrest and Pacific Beach have hired private security programs to keep the homeless away from heavily tread business areas and tourist meccas.
Christopher says those efforts may be futile because there is simply very little that can be done to thwart the homeless from returning.
“For many,” he explains, “the alcoves and store fronts are the safest and warmest option. Shelters fill up nearly every night, if you had a choice of sleeping on a street bench with high traffic or in a covered alcove with an ocean view, which would you choose? It's the same reason tent encampments and FEMA blocks fail quickly, they want to live near the hustle and bustle as well.”
Data shows that homeless San Diego veterans being served has risen steadily from 2014 to this time last year, but the good news is they are being assisted with Outreach Programs, Emergency Shelters and other organizations helping to enhance their quality of life.
Service 4 Life provides the groundwork for homeless veterans to build their lives upon, eventually taking them off the street.
Christopher says in order for them to overcome indigence, and an excoriating society they need one thing first, "Community housing, safe, clean, regulated and most importantly self-sustainable."
He hopes his organization, through events such as The Beer Garden Social at The Brick Bar, will not only bring awareness to the community about homelessness, but give them an opportunity to be a part of the solution.
The Beer Garden Social is on Wednesday, March 15 from 6 pm to 10 pm at The Brick Bar.
The Brick Bar is located at 1475 University Ave, San Diego CA 92103.
For more information, click HERE.