July 18 2012 10:29 AM

Imagine if you didn’t have a place to keep your stuff safe

The Water Man Check-In Center
Photo Kelly Davis

Think about your home, and take mental inventory of everything in it. Remove all the appliances and furniture, and you’re left with stuff—items that you need and items that you’ve accumulated over time. OK, imagine that you lost your home and don’t have money to buy or rent a new one, and think about all the stuff you couldn’t survive without. Now you’re left with the basics—clothing, shoes, a warm coat, blankets or a sleeping bag, a pillow and pillow cases, a towel or two, personal-hygiene items and medication, important documents, maybe a fork and a spoon and maybe a few books, plus photos, keepsakes and mementos that will keep you connected to people and times in your life that you don’t want to forget.

Where would you keep that stuff if you didn’t have a home or the money to pay for a secure storage unit? You’d do what thousands of people do every day in San Diego—you’d grab yourself a shopping cart or find a large suitcase on wheels, and you’d wheel that stuff around with you as you travel to your next meal, wherever you’ve found shelter, wherever you’re going to pass the time and your next appointment with a service provider or, if you’re lucky, a prospective employer.

Now, think about how much easier it would be to get back on track if you didn’t have to push that cart or drag that big suitcase around with you all day, and didn’t have to worry about someone stealing it when you fell asleep at night. Imagine the peace of mind that you’d have if you knew that it was secure and waiting for you the next time you need to get something or change your clothes.

In February 2011, as part of a settlement stemming from a case in which the city of San Diego illegally took and destroyed the belongings of a number of homeless folks, The Water Man Check-In Center was established, named after David “The Water Man” Ross, who for years has been handing out bottles of water to people on the street and advocating for enhanced services for the homeless. Modeled on a successful program in Los Angeles, it’s housed in a building on Ninth Avenue, Downtown, and holds roughly 360 storage bins for people without homes to store their stuff. It was operated by Ross and another man, Gerry Limpic, until a nonprofit called Girls Think Tank took over this past April. They run the center now with the help of volunteers and a couple of part-time employees. It’s open six days a week.

It’s been hard enough to raise enough money to keep the center operating—the city’s initial funding has run out, and earlier this year, the City Council came up with just enough cash to sustain the center until the 2012 fiscal year ended on June 30. But, now, the center itself is in danger of becoming homeless; the lease on the city-owned building is up and won’t be renewed because it’s slated to be demolished in November.

The Girls Think Tank needs help. They need help with a new location, and they need continued funding for administration and operation, costs they’re currently covering via their own fundraising efforts.

Kris Michell, executive director of the Downtown San Diego Partnership (DSDP), a high-powered advocacy organization for Downtown businesses, told CityBeat on Tuesday that Ryan Loofbourrow, who runs DSDP’s Clean & Safe Program, is trying to help identify potential sites. 

That’s great. The Downtown Partnership has done a nice job of helping to get 100 or so homeless people into supportive housing. It does so because it’s in the best economic interest of Downtown businesses to get people off the sidewalks. Well, the same is true for people’s stuff. We urge those businesses to contribute even just a small amount of money to Girls Think Tank (girlsthinktank.org) each month or each quarter to help keep the center running.

In fact, we urge anyone who has the luxury of money to donate to the cause. If you need inspiration, just go back and think about your stuff, and how crucial it would be for you to have a safe and secure place to keep it. 

What do you think? Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.