Point Lomans honor their deceased homeless man … too little and too late?

by on November 3, 2009 · 14 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Health, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, San Diego

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Photo by Jim Grant.

POINT LOMA, CA.  About three months ago – in August – a homeless man who sat on a bench in Point Loma for 15 years died. No one knew his name, or where he was from, and the County was about to “dispose” of him when a community member found his family members and contacted them.

It turned out his name is – was – Jeff Pastorino, and that he has a twin brother named Chris, and has three other brothers, and was from a good family in Pennsylvania. Jeff disappeared from them27 years ago without a trace.

Wherever Jeff’s journey took him, we do know that for the last decade and a half, he sat in a bench at the corner of Rosecrans and Avenida de Portugal “in the village of Point Loma,” as a website that has been set up in his honor describes him.

But that’s not all.  As the website “Point Loma News” reports:

A community that had largely ignored the “crazy guy on the corner” miraculously began to come together. Flowers appeared on Jeff’s bench, then cards, letters, notes, and votives. Point Lomans could be seen in front of the bench with tears running down their faces. Total strangers stood at the bench sharing stories about Jeff. It turns out the man no one knew was known by everyone. He had become a part of the community and although he lived in his own world, Point Lomans had silently embraced him as their own.

This is amazing if true. Could the death of a local homeless guy bring together the community of Point Loma, known for its wealth, conservatism and proximity to the levers of power in San Diego?

This is not a careless question.  Also, it turns out Father Joe Carroll has become involved – post mortem with Jeff.  Chris, the brother is coming to town, and there is a memorial planned on Nov. 5th and another event involving Father Carroll on the 7th.  We’re not real clear why this is.  But go here for more details.

It is great that Jeff’s family has found him. But of course they found him too late.  Why didn’t someone try to find the family before Jeff succumbed to himself and to his environment?  You already know the answer.  There’s no social services – either government or private – that do that.  Contact the family of homeless “crazy” people. Or if there are, they didn’t do it for Jeff.

Is this gush of emotion simply material well-off Peninsulans massaging their own guilt about homeless people, and that particular homeless man?  Isn’t this all too much? Too much and too little and too late?

Did Point Loma discover their homeless and crazy guy too late?

Actually, if you read the “about us” page on the website set up because of Jeff’s death, you’ll find something very encouraging.  Here it is:

We are the people who have been touched by Jeff Pastorino. Some of us knew him well enough to share stories with him. Some of us helped him with his needs for food, money and friendship. Some of us said hello while some of us merely walked or drove by in our cars.

But all of us were his friends and neighbors. He asked for nothing. He expected nothing. As strange as it may seem, he gave us all so much. He has helped us understand the plight of the homeless better. He has helped us realize the gap between material wealth and poverty may not be as wide as we had believed. He has helped us come to grips with the truth that we are all members of the same communities of Point Loma, San Diego, the United States, Planet Earth and humanity. (Editor: our emphasis.)

We are Jeff’s friends and in many ways, his students.

If the ending of a seemingly tragic life can lead our fellow citizens who inhabit this peninsula with OB come to a better understanding of the extent and nature of the homeless crisis in this town and this nation, we welcome their discovery, and cheer on their future efforts. (We just don’t know why or how Father Joe got so involved.)

Welcome to the Point Loma/ Ocean Beach blogosphere, our fellow humans! Welcome!  Thank you Jeff Pastorino!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave Gilbert November 3, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Too much like the closing the barn door after the horses have escaped. Sadly there are far too many Jeff Pastorinos out there being ignored by the too busy and the too self important. What’s even sadder is that it takes them dying to shine a light on their life and their plight.

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”

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avatar Dave Sparling November 3, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Nice story with a much better ending than WALKING MAN. Guess Jeff was smart to pick a wealthy area with political clout.

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avatar jim grant November 4, 2009 at 7:12 am

This is 2 blocks from my house. When I saw this banner I was shocked. Well I should not have been just another case of a politican or cleric looking for a photo op !
Several in the area went to great efforts to find Jeff’s family they should be commended.
Hopefully this family can see the area where Jeff lived for years without it being a circus of clowns.

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avatar lane tobias November 4, 2009 at 9:03 am

always too little too late. I think its great that the community is getting involved in his rememberance….but how does Father Joe play into this?

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avatar jim grant November 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

You mean Father Photo Op Joe ??

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avatar BillRayDrums November 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Were Jeff a musician, it would be at this juncture that he would sell a million albums.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 4, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Welcome back Billray – we missed ya.

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avatar BillRayDrums November 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

Heya Frank! Glad to be back in the loop.

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avatar Jim Dent November 5, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Billraydrums, Very cool web site you have there.

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avatar Jim Dent November 5, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Father Joe showing up for this man after the fact, brings to me images of Jesse Jackson showing up for anyone of importance in the African American community for similar reasons. Just what the heck does he do anyway? I think they all exploit the chance for celebrity. Just a thought…. I never saw the homeless man on the bench and I’ve been here 25 years, but I found the walking man foraging in a dumpster one day about 11 years ago and asked him if he was hungry. He just nodded. I gave him a 5 and he took it and walked away. I was living in Valley Center when I heard that he’d been shot. Made me cry.

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avatar john November 6, 2009 at 9:02 am

I think I read a letter to the editor in the Beacon about this guy, written by someone who lived near. It was very touching and a real wakeup as the economy goes down the tubes.

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avatar Jim Dent November 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

We will get through this economic crisis. We’re Americans and we’ve been down before. Maybe it wasn’t our generation, but this country has always picked itself back up. We will again. Think about the soup lines of the early 30’s and the great depression. We are not in that situation, and I think things will get better before another great depression happens. I’m not the one who has lost my home, but it helped wreck my marriage. My brother lost his home and has 2 young daughters that have always know a very nice home with a nice back yard and a pool. Now they’re in a cheap apartment. Sorry, I’m just commenting on John’s empathy for the homeless man and how it relates to what’s happening with this economy. If I weren’t self employed, I’d probably be out of a job and possibly homeless too. I can not imagine what being homeless would be like. It’s inconceivable to me.

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avatar Editor November 11, 2009 at 9:08 am

This was sent us by someone who attended the ceremony for Jeff:
“Saturday at the bench was remarkable. I at first thought father joe jumping on the bandwagon was BS…after seeing the turn out and talking to many many people and listening to father joe speak he had a few good things to say about human kind….he did not turn it into a rah rah for father joe show ……the turn out and heartfelt words for Jeff and his family were heart warming…..I saw many grown men crying..including one who is a very well know baseball star……”

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avatar Allen Sherpa December 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm

For those asking questions regarding Father Joe’s involvement, lack of social services for the homeless, etc., hopefully, they’ll all be answered when the book is published shortly. An interesting story indeed.

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