Helping homeless in Lakeside is a community issue

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What seemed to be just another day at the Lindo Lake park on Saturday morning, with children riding their skateboards or playing around, with people walking their dogs or doing their morning run, it was also a day of giving for a small, but determined group of Lakeside folks who used the last hours of the year to do good for their community. Lindo Lake park is a daily refuge for many homeless people who come here for the shade, safety, the chairs and the tables they can use to eat, to connect with the nature and, hopefully, with other people.

What seemed to be just another day at the Lindo Lake park on Saturday morning, with children riding their skateboards or playing around, with people walking their dogs or doing their morning run, it was also a day of giving for a small, but determined group of Lakeside folks who used the last hours of the year to do good for their community. Lindo Lake park is a daily refuge for many homeless people who come here for the shade, safety, the chairs and the tables they can use to eat, to connect with the nature and, hopefully, with other people.

Connecting with other people is the hardest endeavor though, as many locals are not happy with the image of the poor scouring through the trashcans searching for food or recyclable goods and sometimes drinking and doing drugs. Kevin Platt, a churchgoer at Lakeside Calvary Chapel decided to do his part to bridge the gap between the poor and the community. “I started out a couple of months ago wanting to help the community and by talking with few homeless people to find out their needs.” The answer was a long list, starting with showers, a place to live, clothes, groceries, when Platt realized this is going to be a long-term project. “However, I wanted to do something immediately and when they said, “socks, we need socks,” I went to my church people and we found dozens of socks right away.” Platt co-opted few more willing to help and soon the group started donating clothes and groceries, cooking 50 dinner plates to give out on Thanksgiving. 

The group’s master chef, Yolanda Jones, also a local, said she loves “to cook and bake. I make whatever I could afford, buying pulled pork or pulled chicken on sale.” Jones lives on Social Security and asked how does she manage to be so giving with so little, she claims “God always finds a way. I have a place to live, I have a vehicle, what else do I need?” 

Joined by her daughter, Carolyn Jones, and another member of the church, John M. who wants to remain anonymous “I don’t need credit for this, I just want to help.” This little group of can-doers are driving around Lindo Lake every Saturday morning and parking here and there, looking for the homeless people, handing out food (last Saturday there were two boiled eggs, ham and cheese, cookies and candy canes), fresh fruits, water, clothes and toiletries. Most importantly, they connect with these people, taking their times to know them better, to ask questions, find out not just their needs, but also their stories. 

Francine and Bobby Kimmel are siblings and both without homes. Francine lost hers when the landlord raised the rent and she couldn’t afford it. At 67 years old, she depends on people’s kindness to make the ends meet. Her brother benefits from subsidized living and he’s been at the Lakeside Hotel for the past six years and could use some clothes and food. Gary has a BS degree in Industrial Technology and is a regular at the park, often budding up for safety reasons with Christopher, aka “Bucket”, former pastor and harmonica player who remembers about playing with Keith Richards and Jimmy Hendricks. Bucket lost his wife last year and he collapsed emotionally, not being able to handle life anymore and being homeless ever since. Locals may already know Lisa, who plays guitar at the park or around Little Caesar pizzeria on Woodside Ave.  “I was married for 17 years, had a mortgage, worked for a reputable company, had a thriving career until my husband shot himself and everything went down the hill from there.” Lisa says Bucket gives everything away and he’s always left with nothing. As for her wishes, Lisa said, “Please smile when you walk by and don’t judged us. We are all humans. Something happened to all of us and shock our world and now we are all lost.”

Address-less people in Lakeside usually live under the bridge on Highway 67, down on the river bottom on the Lakeside Riverpark Conservancy land or newly acquired Cactus Park and gather during the day around Seven Eleven across from Burger King on Maine Ave, at the Dollar Store, parks and trails around town, always looking for safety, food and basic needs. Many of them dig through garbage to live off recyclable goods they can sell for a few bucks every day. Many are veterans not able to afford the cost of living, teens who ran away from abusive homes, addicted people in and out of rehab not able to find their way back to light, but mostly poor with not enough income to cover for a place to live. 

Helping the homeless is not the only charitable cause that gets the group from Lakeside Calvary Chapel involved in their community. “My son lost his legs in Afghanistan and I help a lot at the United States Operations and also with fundraising events organized by the Republican Ladies of El Cajon. I wanted to do more and that’s why I am here today,” said daughter Jones. Despite the fact that he didn’t want any credit for what he does, John M. mentioned he is retired and helping at the Lakeside Food Bank and also that he participated in his church’s project “Operation Christmas Child” when they mailed out almost 600 boxes filled with needed items for poor children in remote areas of the world. 

Mother Jones doesn’t want to stop with the sandwiches. “I want to make soup too, I want them to have a warm, home-made soup, so I am going to take classes in food handling at Grossmont College and apply for a food permit.” None of them want to stop here and pledge to continue to help as they do now, with immediate needs, and also help find a permanent solution for the homeless situation. 

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