Avery was reading skating magazines and sitting on some folding chairs put out by Off the Grid food trucks at Civic Center Plaza. The day prior, Avery was interviewed by the New York Times about a video of him taken near San Jose State University that recently went viral.
“I skateboard. I did a hand-plant in a suit the day before Mother’s Day and it went viral all over the internet so they interviewed me and asked me how long I’ve been skating. I told them since [I was] eight, I’m thirty-eight and now I got my own little skate board school.”
Avery was tracked down shortly after the video went viral and people soon learned that Avery was experiencing homelessness and trying to find a way to take care of his three daughters.
“They made me a GoFundMe and people started sending me money from everywhere. Finland, Paris, Germany, locally. And they’re trying to help me and my three daughters get a place in Vegas and we got it. When you Google me now, you see my whole life’s story.”
Avery was homeless for about a year and a few months and slept in a tent in the Civic Center near the library.
“I was just homeless and I slept by that library many a nights and I felt safe. You know, the police, they didn’t run me off. There were some cold nights, but I was safe. I would wake up in the morning and still go to junior college. They let us lay in the grass and be us. Be San Francisco people.”
Avery thinks that for the most part, you can still hang out in Civic Center area without being harassed by the police.
“There’s some rules. You can’t just lay in the middle but you can still go to the grassy areas. Like right here, I’m sitting down. I’m not eating. They ain’t running me off.”
Avery talked about other areas of San Francisco he would spend time if he couldn’t access the public spaces of the Civic Center.
“I’d probably be at Ocean Beach where it’s real cold because there’s a nice community over there. And I camped out there, tented there for months, but right here…everything’s here. You got all the restaurants, you know, Civic Center, 7th and Market, 6th and Market, you got Powell Street. Everything is right close. The library is right across the street where you can study.”
When asked if the Civic Center was a welcoming space, Avery said,
“Very [welcoming]) because I can come dressed however. I don’t even have to be in this. I could be in a little shabbier clothes and people still embrace and don’t bother me and let me be able to do this. And we got this. You’re interviewing me. I’m getting interviewed right now. It’s lovely.”
Avery held a lot of love for the Civic Center area, particularly Civic Center Plaza and by the library where he slept.
“It was my safety. It was my solitude. It was my comfort. It was my network area. And my way to just spread my wings.”
Even now that he has housing, Avery chooses to hang out at the Civic Center.
“I’ve been coming here like at least three times a week. They used to have music played here. They used to dance and salsa and all that nonsense. It’s where everybody comes. Pride was just held here. A lot of things is held here.”
He recently participated in a public gathering.
“I came here for a march, ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.’ It was intense. It was right in front of City Hall and people were going back and forth with their views. I loved it. But it was tense. I don’t think it would have been a nice place for kids at the time that people was arguing but it was a good debate.”
The number one thing that Avery likes most about the Civic Center and the reason he visits is the people. He often gets in conversations with random strangers. He seemed like the type of person who could talk to anyone who approached him.
“I’m a Pisces so that could be it. It could be because I’m thirty-eight, I don’t know but it’s easy in San Francisco. Ain’t like New York. People busy, busy, busy. People will talk to you [in San Francisco]). In New York they like ‘Ah f*** off, I gotta go to work.’ ”
Despite moving to Vegas with his three daughters soon, Avery will be coming back to the Bay Area where his family lives at least once a month. He plans on stopping at the Civic Center when he’s here.
“I come once a month still once I move to Vegas, so I [will] still come here. This is my spot right here because of the people. It’s less busy like the Ferry Building and the pier. It’s less busy and you relax. And you have every nationality. Every race, every religion. Like I’m looking behind me and I see a Muslima, a Muslim woman. You know, they just got done fasting for the month of Ramadan on Sunday. You get a mix of everything. People getting married, picture taking.”
Avery likes some of the changes that have been taking place in the public spaces of Civic Center.
“I love it. I like that even though you have the playground, you can just walk. It’s not gated. I love that. You can see your kids, you can play with your kids. I have three daughters. This would be the spot I take them. It’s a very safe place. We’ve got City Hall and our San Francisco PD [Police Department] is the best I think.”
And he hopes the area can bring in more activities.
“One time they set up ping pong tables over there on Market and it would be nice to have them set up here. Hang out, play ping pong. Play bocce ball in the dirt. You know that game? It’s one of my favorite games.”
Avery has been through a lot of hardships in his life but he continues to stay optimistic.
“If you need a city to come to, to feel welcome, this is the city to come in right here. Civic Center. You know, even if you’re homeless. I was homeless for a while and now I got blessed with a GoFundMe and it’s lovely. I still come here because it brings me back. It reminds me where I came from.”