92101 News & Notes: Befriending Our Unhoused Neighbors

Mary Benirschke’s common sense plan for the unsheltered. PLUS: Don’t patronize street vendors, more Gaslamp art space and arcade gamers.
Rolf and Mary Benirschke at the May 2023 opening of Timmy’s Place. Mary’s just kicked off another new homelessness initiative.

Here’s what we’re talking about: Mary Benirschke is back in homelessness headlines with a brilliant program that pairs the unhoused with caring individuals. On the same subject, a city councilmember recently had some not-exactly-sage advice. Plus: Street food vendors are putting their buns where they shouldn’t; Ruth-Ann Thorn is staking a wider claim in the Gaslamp Quarter; and another arcade is trying out new quarters in East Village.

BEFRIENDING THE HOMELESS. The Lucky Duck Foundation has launched a new program aimed at pairing volunteers with individuals who’ve experienced homelessness. 

Lucky Duck’s “Be A Friend – Impact A Life” program was designed by Mary Benirschke and was originally implemented at the San Diego Rescue Mission under the name “Walk With Me.”

Expanding and renaming the program will allow other nonprofit service providers to connect clients with volunteers to form relationships that can be a pathway off the streets.

Lucky Duck Foundation executive director Drew Moser expects this program to work with a wide range of people, including youth, veterans and seniors.

“The power of friendship cannot be overstated,” Moser says.

Benirschke, and her husband, Rolf, the former San Diego Chargers kicker, have a son who overcame homelessness. The couple recently helped fund Timmy’s Place. Named after their son, Timmy’s Place trains and employs youths living at a downtown homeless center.

Mary Benirschke believes Be A Friend – Impact A Life can have true impact.

“This program provides a clear and enriching guide to create trusted friendships that ultimately help people end their homelessness and stay housed,” she says.

Organizations that have already signed on with Be A Friend include Urban Street Angels, Youth Assistance Coalition, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Kenosis, Uplift and Rise Up Industries. 

For more information, click on Be A Friend.

THANKS, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. “I encourage unsheltered people to take advantage of our new safe sleeping site or available shelter beds. These options are much safer and healthier than living on sidewalks or in parks.” 

–San Diego City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune about the city’s new no-camping ban.

DOGGONE STREET VENDORS. Local street food vendors, as well as renegade hot dog slingers from Los Angeles, are working downtown streets–despite a legal crackdown by the San Diego City Council. Local news reports have detailed turf wars between various vendors, none of whom should be working in the Gaslamp Quarter or East Village without proper licensing.

The food vendors usually come out after dark. Often on Padres game nights. And after San Diego’s Code Enforcement team is off duty. The SDPD allegedly has no jurisdiction over the guerilla grillers. Until the situation gets rectified, here’s a suggestion: Don’t buy foodstuffs from these stray street vendors. Support local businesses. And save yourself the likely indigestion.   

Exclusive Collections owner Ruth -Ann Thorn.

LAST WORDS. Recent Sun profile subject Ruth-Ann Thorn just opened her Exclusive Collections art gallery in the Gaslamp Quarter near Fifth and Market. She’s wasted little time in expanding her territory. Her gorgeous and eclectic gallery is at 621 Fifth Avenue. Thorn just leased the underground spot right next to her (below Goorin Bros. Hat Shop in the Yuma Building). She’s not done yet. Coming soon: an artfully revamped patio behind the gallery … The Sun was jazzed to experience its first Sofar (Songs From A Room) concert last year. These are intimate, low-cost, mini-musical bills where you don’t find out who’s playing until you get there. Locations are disclosed the day before the show. Sofar events arrive downtown on Aug. 6 (outdoors), Aug. 10 (rooftop venue) and Aug. 17 (who knows where?) … Arcade Monsters is coming to the former Union Cowork space at 704 J Street in East Village. Nearby, Coin-Op (789 Sixth Avenue) still attracts the gamers. Unlike Nick Cannon’s arcade-themed Wild ‘n Out Sports Bar (701 Sixth Avenue), which opened and closed in a year.  SDSun


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