Hope4Homeless: My personal connection to this crisis

In my early 30s I received a letter from my biological mother. I grew up in San Diego’s foster care system so I did not know my mother for most of my life. In the letter, she asked me to go and thank her friends at the Neil Good Day Center for their help when she was homeless in San Diego.  She was asking me to thank people who almost certainly were no longer there 25+ years later. I knew she had mental illness and was disabled, but I didn’t know the extent until I read that letter.

I did as she asked and as I walked from my car near 17th and Island past the discarded needles, trash, and sadness on the faces of the homeless men and women around me, the experience really impacted me. I didn’t find anyone who remembered my mother, but the experience stayed with me. It motivated me to do more.

I joined the board of Rachel’s Women’s Center and began to look for ways to better address homelessness. I joined the Board of United Way of San Diego County, who had been responsible for Project 25 – a wildly successful effort to house the most needy homeless San Diegans who were the highest users of health and law enforcement services.  My biological mother’s life experiences shaped the contours of my life in ways I did not expect. I am grateful for the support I received, largely from the County of San Diego, and feel deeply that I have a debt to be repaid to help more San Diegans lead a life of dignity and opportunity.

We released our Hope4Homeless plan as a recognition that the County can and must do more to focus on systems for reducing homelessness and must take on a bigger leadership role. It is a big part of why I am running for the Board of Supervisors and I intend to drive that leadership if elected.

Omar Passons