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San Diego, CA 92101

info@tacosd.org

Third Avenue

Charitable Organization

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Tel: 619-235-9445

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These are older editions of TACO Tenders - for more recent ones, click here

TACO Tenders - January 7, 2019

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

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TACO Tenders - December 24, 2018

“I found myself wanting to stay sober because I was needed.”

 

I was born in Mississippi and raised by a strict family with strong beliefs in God. If you did wrong God would punish you. What ever happen in family stayed in the family, so I learned to keep secrets well. When something did happen to me when I was young girl I tried to understand what I had done so wrong that God would punish me this way. Once I decided to take that first drink, at that moment, it was the best thing that had ever happen to me. It took all the pain away. Eventually, alcohol took me to places that I would not wish on my worst enemy. I felt so much anger, resentments, guilt, and shame. I had hurt my family and my children, because the alcohol always can first.

As always I ran into trouble with the law and this time the judge want me to do A.A. meetings. I had a fine to pay and I had no money so the judge wanted me to do community services to pay off my fine. I was at an A.A. meeting and someone sent me to over Third Avenue Charitable Organization (T.A.C.O.). I have done community services at other places. I just did what I needed to do and then back to my drinking. I came over to T.A.C.O. I met Rachel. She was so understanding. I had not planned to stay, but something happen and I found myself wanting to come back. I had not met people that were so compassionate, caring, and forgiving in a long time. I was afraid at first, but my heart softened, and I began to have feelings that had long gone. Everyone treated me with respect and did not treat me different because of my problem. I talked with people on the patio and I learned I was not different or unique because so many had suffered as much as I did. I found myself wanting to stay sober because I was needed. I found myself caring for someone else without looking for something in return.

When Rachel suggested that the N.A. meeting needed a secretary I did it for two years. That was the longest time I had been sober. That allows me to reach out to other people and hopefully let them know that recovery is possible, especially when others reach out to you and let you know that you are special. The ones at TACO have more faith in me than I did in myself. They opened a door and I stepped in. My life changed in that moment and I found a willingness to move forward. I went back to school and got an Associate Degree in Behavioral Science. I also served on the Board of Directors of TACO for two years.

Thank you!!!

Melinda Person

TACO Tenders - December 4, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

“Bouncing in her shoes”

 

As TACO’s first paid staff person with a responsibility for coordinating TACO’s meals with the newly added medical clinics, one of the roles that reluctantly fell to me was “bouncer” - escorting off the property folks who were causing problems or becoming dangerous. One Monday after the meal, there was a great deal of yelling and shouting in front of one of the second floor clinics. A woman, who we will call Ethel, had sought some medical treatment and was not satisfied with the service she had received. As we had previously planned with the clinics for such situations, a team of four of us gathered around Ethel to try to calm her down, which did not happen quickly. In fact she lectured us, in no mild-mannered voice, that although this medical service was free, she was there to teach these medical students something about being homeless and properly caring for folks like her.

 

The team acknowledged the truth in what she was saying, and apologized that the treatment she was demanding was not available that night, but that they would like to see her another time for that treatment. That brought some sense of calm. Then it fell to me to gently escort her on her way without things flaring up again. That short 200-foot walk out to the sidewalk took about 40 minutes. NOT because she was being difficult, but because she so thoroughly engaged me in telling me what life was like for a single woman living on the street, never feeling safe, always being defensive and offensive just to protect herself, always feeling vulnerable, never being able to truly rest. She invited me for those 40 minutes to walk in her shoes with her. I actually experience in that conversation some of the fear she lived with daily. And in all this, there was a backhanded compliment. TACO and the medical clinics were the one place she felt safe and respected, but we had disappointed her that night. Her outbreak that night had been a plea to us to stay that safe and trusting place she could count on.

 

Bill Radatz

TACO Tenders - November 26, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

Concrete Christmas 2018

TACO Tenders - November 19, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

Starfish and Gratitude

 

- One day an old man was walking down the beach just before dawn. In the distance he saw a young man picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea. As the old man approached the young man, he asked, "Why do you spend so much energy doing what seems to be a waste of time?" The young man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. The old man exclaimed, "But there must be thousands of starfish. How can your efforts make any difference?" The young man looked down at the starfish in his hand and as he threw it to safety in the sea, he said," It makes a difference to this one!" -

 

There are as many different personal stories as there are people we serve at TACO. The more I volunteer the more I realize that each of us could end up in that meal line.  We are one job loss away, one undiagnosed mental illness away, one financial or medical catastrophe away, from being in need of help. TACO provides that help.

 

I feel blessed to be retired now and in a position to spend my time doing things that matter to me. If each of us chooses one action or cause that is aligned with our core values we can’t help but make a difference in the world. 

 

My ability to feel gratitude has grown exponentially since volunteering here. I have a greater capacity of seeing joy in everyday life because I see it through the eyes of the people we serve, many of whom are thankful for the smallest of kindnesses. I have received so much more than I ever imagined when I started volunteering. I’m the one who is truly grateful that TACO makes a difference to so many people. 

 

Mary Krueger

 

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TACO Tenders - November 12, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

Franky

 

To talk about “the homeless” as one entity is meaningless. While there are some common factors involved in how people came to be without permanent housing, each is an individual, each has a unique story, each is a character in their own way, each has someone somewhere who knows they aren’t “home”. They have a name. They came from somewhere. They have friends and family. They have likes and dislikes. 

Francisco was born in New Mexico on San Juan Pueblo (Okah-Oweege or “The Place Where Strong People Come From”) and left home at 13. “It was the hippie era so I backyard-surfed, couched-surfed, and spent time in a commune in Taos.” From that early start, he developed “wanderlust” working for Ringling Brothers Circus, as a concessionaire for Disney on Ice, crabbing in Puget Sound, running a night club in Tucson, carpentry, and who knows what else! He said that he made his best money shooting pool. He never “hustled” but went to the places where people played for money. He was good!

The longest Frank ever stayed one place was two years in Columbus, OH, where he stayed long enough to help his girlfriend take care of her elderly parents. Several months ago, he went “home” to New Mexico with high expectations but found it unworkable due to lack of transportation and distances.  

 

So he’s back in San Diego and currently housesitting for a professor for whom he remodeled three houses. He’s been “outside” for 20 years but it is getting much harder. For the first time in years, he doesn’t want to be outside again. “Wisdom comes with age,” he reflected, “but the rest of the body breaks down.”  Knowing he’d been hospitalized with a serious health episode several weeks ago, I asked him if he would go home again if he was really sick. “No, I don’t want to be a burden on my son and daughter and grandkids. I supposed if they insisted we’d have to talk about it.” 

Friendly, outgoing, and feisty, Frank has been coming to TACO for nearly 15 years.  He’s usually in a group of people talking and laughing. Most programs have so many rules and regulations that you feel like an inmate. I understand respect and responsibility. This is a good place.”

 

There is much more to his life but time and space can’t hold everything!

 

Gloria Espeseth

TACO Tenders - November 5, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

"Sam"

 

Most of us might think of "Sam" as a classic. He’s been coming to eat at First Lutheran for over 30 years, with a few breaks here and there. He remembers when “the ladies” made homemade chutney. Currently "Sam" is living in a bridge which he hopes will be water proof as the rains come. 

 

"Sam" went into the Army after high school and got out after 3 years. He regrets that now because he would have had a pension if he had stayed for 20 years.

 

"Sam" has supported himself by “canning” which is another word for recycling cans and bottles. He has made up to $1,300 a month but it is a lot less now because he has some health issues. He said, “I think it is odd that I get yelled at for taking cans and bottles out of the trash—I’m doing everyone’s work for them because we don’t want all of them in the landfill!” 

 

Over the years, he has also worked at 20 different downtown hotels when he would be living there. He did everything from the desk, to maid service, to janitor and maintenance.

 

"Sam" has three children on the East Coast. He doesn’t have a cell phone so he doesn’t talk to them very often. One day one of his friends showed JW his son on Facebook. He’s a manager at a fast food restaurant and “wears a tie every day. I’m really proud of him!” 

 

He says that he enjoys coming to TACO to see his friends and eat such delicious food.

 

Gloria Espeseth

 

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TACO Tenders - October 30, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

The Power of Grace

 

I don't know at what point this started to happen. But yesterday when he walked into the office I thought to myself, “this gentleman will not live much longer.’ 

 

The particular man in question, he went by “Grace”, I’ve known a long time. For those seven years, I have often watched him from the balcony here at TACO as I looked across 3rd Avenue to the sidewalk apron in front of the Ace Parking lot. At times I have seen him more closely like when he comes to get his mail from us as he has no address, or when we've let him use the phone to call someone usually at the VA hospital, or when we've given him food. Sometimes passed out on this side of the street, sometimes on the other.

 

Maybe it's not rocket science to think about him dying. In the past six months he's been hospitalized around a dozen times. When he's out he is usually in a wheelchair scooting himself from one location to another backwards with the use of 1 foot while his other foot and leg are in a brace. So when he came to the door yesterday and he tried to tell me he had been in the hospital for a stroke, which was why he couldn't speak well now, perhaps my thinking was not so profound.

 

But I have to say I've never worked in a job where that thought has so clearly come into my head and where it’s more likely than not true. I suppose the question is “So what do I do if he is dying?”

 

Early on working at TACO when we would come in contact with problematic people my general thought was "well they're not following the rules, they’re going to be out of here". But quickly I discovered that there was actually no other place for some people to go. That the streets are where you stay when there are no other options. And if I'm working with people who are on the street, I'm working with people who have no other options. When everything has been taken away, maybe it cannot be taken away again.   What came clear to me was that folks coming here were not going to be dissuaded by me saying, "Take it or leave it.”

 

If everything is lost then there's nothing to hold over someone's head. It also means, going back to my gentleman, that he's going to be out here and I'm going to be seeing him. I may need to accept that I am powerless to transform his life to keep him from dying. So then what am I supposed to do? I'm really not very good at this powerlessness thing but yet I do it every day. I must watch him get ready to die. I must watch his speech change and his walking change and his thinking change. I must watch and even participate in the call of ambulances and the trips to the hospital. In the process I must look for moments of conversation and ways to aid in support. All the while thinking about what will I do and say when he has died. Will there be a place in the church’s columbarium for him? Will that be when he finally has a place of his own inside?

 

If all this seems a little morose I suppose that it is. But how in the midst of this do I stay hopeful? If each day I came to work thinking, “who's going to die today?” it could be tough to feel good about this work. So maybe I am hopeful that he gets indoors before he dies or maybe I can be hopeful that he will get the medical care he needs and won't die soon. Or maybe I can be hopeful that he connects with people in a way that I have not seen him do yet. I certainly have seen people change. It's a lengthy process, but I have seen it happen here. It can take a lifetime for people to end up on the streets and it might take a lifetime to get back up off of them. But I've seen people get sober, and I've seen people heal, and I've seen people leave the streets for housing they can afford. I've even seen people reconcile with family when they thought those doors were closed forever. It takes someone being there, available to give support. So I have much to hope for even while I'm aware that I may be with him as he dies.

 

Jim Lovell, MSW 2015

 

Want to share your reaction? Email tenders@tacosd.org

TACO Tenders - October 22, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

BY JANINE HAND

 

Jim Lovell, Executive Director of TACO, doesn’t know how he found his calling. He is inspired, however, by how deeply homeless individuals see and hear God in their lives, sometimes more clearly than those who have not shared such struggles.

 

Jim pointed out generally there’s tremendous compassion towards guests but after time people wonder why the system is failing and guests are still in the same circumstances. “Sometimes we put people in situations where things can’t get better”, adding, “it is disturbing what guests go through every day of their lives.” Jim has noted that knowing they are broken often gives people an edge for dealing with difficult situations.

 

The gentrification of downtown San Diego puts pressure on the homeless to “move it along”. It is a gift for the homeless to have a place and time where they are not hassled. They need assistance and grace just like the rest of us. At TACO they’re treated with respect, and TACO is seen as a sanctuary where guests can catch their breath and be safe.

 

It’s fulfilling for Jim to see lightbulbs go off for students, and volunteers when it clicks that the person they’re helping is as human as they are. He’s glad to be a conduit to help that happen, but more profound to Jim was experiencing when people allow him to be their “person”. You know, your Emergency Contact. In a place like TACO, extraordinary moments become the norm, the guest may “see you as their person." 

 

Asking Jim for what guides him daily he quoted Leonard Cohen, “there’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in” and “ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est”, (Latin - “Where there is Charity & Love, God is there”). And when I asked what’s the one thing he wants people to know, his pause was long. Then came, “people are not on the streets because of their own lack of whatever – it’s not an issue of moral character or doing things right or wrong.”

 

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TACO Tenders - October 15, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

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TACO Tenders - October 8, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

Waiting, on the top steps of the church - Sonia’s story

 

First, I want to thank all of you who reached out to help Sonia in her last days. Sonia passed away from a terminal illness. I was deeply touched as I had heard that she was cared for by so many. You offered unconditional love and comforted her. You took the time to listen to her stories and helped Sonia when she needed it most.

I may never know why Sonia desires to sit on the top steps of the church waiting. It seems that she knew about her terminal illness and may have found spiritual comfort there.

She and I had 3 boys together. I planned to marry Sonia, but she always said “not yet” (she didn’t want me to take on her bills). We were common law married. We were in love and always did everything together.

I have been incarcerated for over 14 years for something I did not do. Eleven long years passed; I could do nothing with no address nor phone number (for Sonia). On November 4, 2016 I got a letter - it was the father who adopted my youngest boy, and he had discovered that there was a beautiful service that celebrated Sonia’s life, but it was two years ago.

The service was about LAZARUS and the rich man. LAZARUS was poor and suffered, but when he passed away, he was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham (Sonia named one of our boys after Abraham). Sonia Marie was our LAZARUS at the gate. Sonia sat at the top of the patio steps, welcoming passers-by every morning and often saying “good night” as those who left in the evening. She was so kind; she kept watch over our patio and church.

This is a letter to thank all of you for your love that you offered Sonia and helping her in her last days and hours.

 

These are excerpts from a letter sent to TACO by David, Sonia’s common law husband. Sonia was in TACO’s Going Home program and had a Simon’s Walk volunteer as a friend in her final months. A memorial service was held for her at the church on October 21,2014

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TACO Tenders - September 24, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

“Boy was I ever WRONG”

 

“The key is access”

 

Victoria (aka Tori) Speck, now in her second year of medical school, has been part of TACO’s partner, the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic, for three years now. She began as a volunteer and was thrilled when she was admitted to the UCSD School of Medicine. Presently a general manager of the free clinic, Tori finds her work there incredibly meaningful.

  “In your first two years of medical school, you’re more focused on book learning, you haven’t worked with many patients,” she explains. “Here we see and interact with patients, we learn from them as well as the M.D.s who volunteer. We aren’t just learning medicine, we’re learning how to care for human beings. It’s an invaluable experience.”

  Tori says what she loves about medicine is that “there is so much you can do for people using many different tools. Look at the medical advances in treating diseases like HIV – it can now be managed as a chronic disease or Hep C – it can now be cured with drug therapy.”

  “The key,” Tori says with conviction, “is access. It’s such a privilege to help people get access to the treatments and the drugs they need to live.” Tori admires and respects the many people who work for and volunteer with TACO and the free clinic. “Everybody cares,” she states plainly.

So while Tori is keeping an open mind about what branch of medicine she will choose (although she admits to being drawn to surgery) it’s already clear that Tori will be a different kind of doctor thanks to her time with TACO. It’s easy to predict that the people she has met and the things she has learned will inform her future medical practice.

– Sylvia Starbird-Herman

 

Director’s Note-we are so thankful to all of the students of the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic they really make this experience life-saving for our patients. With its four sites: the free clinic sees an average of 1000 people a year, all for free.

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TACO Tenders - September 17, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

Lissa’s Story– TACO’s “Going Home” Program

 

Initially Lissa came to TACO saying she was dying of Lupus. She had been on the streets of San Diego for about 4 years.

Nance Lovell, MSW, Going Home End-of-Life Services Founder & former Coordinator writes of the relationship she developed with Lissa, ministering to folks in end-of-life circumstances who are living on the streets.

It’s been an uphill journey walking with Lissa. She is slow to trust and it can be hard to find her. I’ve known her now for six months. What has been a plus for me is that with each visit, she loosens her guard an inch more and is coming around more often. 

 

Most of our visits have been while she is lying in a hospital bed at her most vulnerable times. Those are the sober moments where we spend much of our time in silence, holding hands. An understanding between us has grown. She now knows she is loved and cared for; she does not question that from me. 

 

Lissa has continued to choose to remain living outside. She wants the freedoms it offers. She has been victimized, raped, robbed, and watched friends get bashed with baseball bats.  She goes indoors for a day or two when things get rough or when her health is getting out of control.

 

I was amazed at the power and importance “outside” offers. Although it makes logical sense, it also beckons me to look at the deeper implications of what being homeless entails. For Lissa, this is where she learned her life lessons, her wisdom of what is truly important; this is where she has finally found happiness. Who are we to judge? There is a greater wisdom that is being found in the experience of living outdoors.

 

As we chatted about tattoos, rings, and her plans to fly to Maryland to say good-bye…she noticed my blouse. She was sort of awestruck by the beads and tiny mirrors that dangled from the collar (it was made in India). She asked me “can I wear that shirt when I die?” and looked me in the eye waiting for my response… “Of course, Lissa.”

 

My initial thoughts were “I love this shirt, why did she ask me for this one.” Then as I sat with all my thoughts in silence, I began to realize that my verbal response was actually the most real one. “Of course” – I am honored to know she will wear my shirt. The next day I washed my shirt for the last time and hung it in the closet until the time comes. 

 

As she grew closer to death, she did move indoors full-time with TACO’s help. In her last days she was ministered to by Nance and her Simon’s Walk Ministry team. A joint service was held at First Lutheran church shortly after she died.

TACO Tenders - August 20, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

“Life is to be Lived”

 

Bea is a regular at both Monday and Friday meal, coming early to visit with friends or to read a book. She reminds me of a neighbor who was “Grandma Shirley” to everyone. Bea, 80 as of July 17, is a mother of 7 with 14 grandchildren and 7 great-

grandchildren. They live Northern California, Oregon, and rural South Carolina.  She’s

in San Diego because it is “home”.

 

Bea moved to San Diego in 1976 and met her husband the first day! Living

downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, they shared 40 wonderful years until his death two years ago. After struggling for a time in San Diego, Bea moved to rural South Carolina for four months to live with her son and care for two great-grandbabies. But it is hard to keep “Grandma on the farm” when she’s seen the big city lights. So she returned “home” and lives in a single room occupancy hotel (no kitchen). She loves her view and feels safe because the Manager was a Marine Drill Instructor as was her husband. Rumors are the hotel will be renovated in a year after which she knows rent will be out of her range. But until then, she will enjoy each day.

 

Bea keeps busy by singing in the San Diego Street Choir, swimming in the Municipal

pool, taking in downtown activities, and volunteering at the Senior Center. Bea is realistic that there may be a day when she will need to live near one of her children but for now she is an adventurer with the motto, “Life is to be lived”.

 

This entry of TACO Tenders was written by Rev. Gloria Espeseth

TACO Tenders - August 13, 2018

This is a new weekly feature. Every Monday we will bring you a story At 3:30 PM. This is the same time that our Volunteer Coordinater in is meeting with our Monday meal volunteers. We hope you enjoy.

“Boy was I ever WRONG”

 

When I first came to TACO I was ignorant about the homeless situation and thought the homeless were lazy and didn’t want to work. Boy was I ever WRONG! The patio parishioners we serve are some of the most thankful, grateful, and appreciative people you will ever meet. I receive more compassion and acceptance from them than I give out. I have learned invaluable, lifelong lessons from my mentor Jim Lovell watching him handle difficult people and situations. Besides our guests and Jim, our TACO volunteers, expert chefs, and our committed volunteer coordinators keep me coming back. Their dedication is an inspiration to us all! Volunteering and serving at TACO for the last 15 years has made me realize how insignificant my issues are and has helped me develop a stronger “attitude of gratitude”. I enjoy educating people about the homeless issue. My service to others is one of the ways I thank and honor God for all of the blessings he has showered upon my family and me. It is also a way I honor my father from whom I learned the importance of serving others and who is still a role model for me.

Some of the most meaningful experiences at TACO have been seeing some of our guest get clean and sober, Michael “Red” Conley, for example, and seeing some of our most vulnerable members of society get into housing – also, the couple of weddings we had on the patio, and finally getting an elevator lift so I don’t have to hold my breath watching Jim Lovell navigate the stairs. I consider many of the homeless I serve as very good friends.

Thank you.

Randy Engel

Want to share your reaction? Email tenders@tacosd.org