Juanita was sitting outside of the library on Fulton Street. She had just finished using the services provided by Lava Mae and asked if she could be featured in Civic Center Stories. Upon the start of the interview, she revealed that she is currently experiencing homelessness. She visits the Civic Center area every day primarily to access services.
“Why I’m in this space is because it has a lot of resources. I’m part of the Homeless Coalition so I utilize my resources. Lava Mae’s here, the library, they come to feed the homeless, which I’m a part of. I get a sack lunch and there’s a lot of hurting souls out here, a lot of hurting people…there’s a lot of people that hang in this area and I get to talk to them and express my Christianity and stuff like that because I have a very loving spirit, so I get to reach out to people, other hurting souls like me.”
In addition to resources, Juanita also loves the energy and the beauty of the Civic Center area.
“The fruit at the Farmer’s Market. The music, the statues, the ancient old buildings. It’s awesome down here. It’s history. I love it. It’s just the detailing of the buildings, you know? You can tell it don’t take a rocket scientist to tell me that these buildings have history.”
Juanita just moved to San Francisco and has been without housing on and off for the past seven months and is waiting to get access to a shelter.
“I go to Glide; they have a fantastic lunch program. Also, I attend Glide’s church…they have a wonderful choir. And they have a wonderful thing called 211 and so my name can be picked for a shelter list. I camp in front of Glide which they’re ok with and it’s a safe place for homeless people. It takes a month to get your name through 211 to have shelter and you can stay there three months.”
Despite her current situation, Juanita says that San Francisco is a welcoming city.
“There’s a lot of foreigners and tourists that come to the city. I think it’s a free place. It’s very free. Free like you know, like the gay population. Which, I’m not a hater, I like ‘em all. I don’t like anyone putting a label on me but you know, they got different type of people here.”
During the day, Juanita visits the Civic Center to see the community of individuals also experiencing homelessness. And she loves to see all the dogs too.
“Oh God, I’m an animal lover. There’s a lot of animals around here. A lot of dogs and they just lift my spirit up. And the friendly homeless people which I’m a part of. They reach out, we reach out to each other here. You know, no matter what color you are, white, black. I just like it here, this area.”
Juanita says she feels safe in the Civic Center area.
“Actually nothing has hurt me or happened. There’s other homeless people in the area. And not to mention, the police, they patrol. They do a wonderful job to keep the dope, the drugs, you know, all the crap down so it’s a wonderful area. I feel safe here, it’s really nice. ”
“I’m a very big female and there’s been little people that come step towards me. You know, bullies and stuff, but I’m zero tolerance for violence. I hate violence. Period. I hate it. This is a cool, nice area, even when it hits dark time. It’s pretty cool. I could basically lay my blanket pretty much anywhere right down in this area and feel safe.”
When asked how her life might be impacted if she did not have access to the public spaces of the Civic Center, it was hard for her to think about.
“Oh gosh, oh gosh. Don’t say that. Well, I wouldn’t eat. I would have to wait to take a shower. I wouldn’t see the animals that make me happy. I wouldn’t see the friendly, homeless, hurting people. I wouldn’t be able to use my expertise and bring ‘em up. I like to build instead of bring down. I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Juanita loves seeing the different types of people who pass through the Civic Center.
“Oh God, they’re awesome. You see different people with skills and talents, man. Yeah, it’s wonderful people here. It’s people that I draw strength from. Like, I see people that’s utilizing their time wisely going to and from work, trying to become something. That’s my role model, that’s my strength because I have a history of drug abuse and homelessness so gradually when I see you guys doing positive and positive things going around, it’s positive for me. You know, very positive.”
Juanita also relies on her relationship with God to give her strength.
“I love the Lord, I think he got a part to do with it. He’s my friend. I’m a gunshot victim from East Oakland. I could be in the dumps all day long but it’s because of Him that gives me such a wonderful attitude, personality.”
Juanita says the Civic Center makes her feel alive.
“It’s exciting to be here. Different people. It’s kinda busy…It’s good, very good, busy. There’s always something going on around here.”