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Mother & son describe experience of staying at new safe sleeping site

Daniel Lopez and his mother came to the O Lot site on Monday.
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Posted at 1:37 PM, Oct 26, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Daniel Lopez, his mother Maria and their dogs have been through a lot.

“We spent a good three years out here homeless. Downtown, Little Italy, Hillcrest, Balboa Park mostly. But we’ve experienced a lot. Our tent was set on fire, had guns pulled on me by complete strangers; homeless, not homeless. It was all bad,” Lopez said.

“Sometimes people walk by and the spit at you, or they throw something at you, and they pull the covers. We try not to get cold. And they laugh about us,” Maria Cardenas, Daniel’s mother, said.

Another hurdle was there for this mother and son while on the streets.

“I don’t know if it’s Alzheimer’s or dementia... We’re still trying to get a doctor to see her,” Lopez said. “She’s wandered off from me in the past. I’ve woken up from a dead sleep and she’s gone.”

The pair are now staying at the new safe sleeping site called the O Lotnear Balboa Park which opened on Saturday.

“We’ve moved 20 in on Saturday. And each day we’ve been moving approximately 10 households, so it could be anywhere from 10 to 15 people depending on the household on to the site,” Teresa Smith, CEO of Dreams For Change, said.

Dreams For Change manages two thirds of the O Lot site, with Downtown San Diego Partnership managing the other third.

Smith’s organization also operates the city’s first safe sleeping site on 20th and B streets.

RELATED: 300 unhoused people waiting to move into San Diego's 'Safe Sleeping Site'

She told ABC 10News the first site gave them a chance to learn and hear from the clients, like for instance creating spaces where people in recovery can feel comfortable in.

“As we continued to, you know, set up this particular site, we are creating those specific zones for those individuals. Just like we’re going to have an area for those who have higher medical needs and mental health needs,” Smith said.

Having the program address those needs has helped Lopez and his mother.

“It’s helped me get away from the, you know, toxic people, scenes I should stay away from and whatnot. Nothing but praise and good thing for it," Lopez said.

“It feels safer there because they have somebody walking around while we sleep,” Cardenas said.

There’s hope these tents where they’re sleeping can led them on a different path.

“And I hope for the future for us would be back to some sort of normalcy of life, house routine, job routine and just back to normal. Just so things are so chaotic and hectic 24 hours a day,” Lopez said.

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