With offices in San Francisco booming and plenty of overtime opportunities, Sanchez said at his peak he could hit a high of $ 22 an hour, or just over $ 60 adjusted in function of inflation. He didn’t worry about the rent either. He stayed in his family’s social housing until his mid-twenties and had a cheap nightlife scene that consisted of floating around the neighborhood and hanging out with friends near the BART stop on 24th Street. “I was always on the street,” he says.
When he left his family’s apartment, an event sparked by his brother’s murder in drug trafficking, it began what he described as a series of wage cuts, relationships broken and unstable housing that took him in all directions. Bay Area and ended with him pitching a tent outside a church a block away.
“I started partying and stuff,” he said. “Start cocaine and smoke weed.”
Mr Sanchez says he only had two official leases, each for a few months, and along the way he met enough wives and girlfriends that he couldn’t say precisely how many of their names he tattooed and masked.
“Bad call,” he said. “I have a heart for people.
Bouncing from rooms to floors and sofas, Mr Sanchez said, he was functionally homeless even though he was not on the street. At one point he moved to Sacramento, where rent is cheaper, but he turned to landscaping and painting after his back injury, and it was only paying $ 10 an hour.
In early 2020, earning around $ 1,000 a month in Social Security benefits and a little more with hourly yard and gutter cleaning jobs, he was sleeping on the floor of a friend’s hotel room. One day he met a woman he knew and she offered to let him sleep in his tent next to an episcopal church one block from his childhood apartment. He said yes, and soon after got his own tent.
“I was like, ‘Oh, is that how it is? It’s not too bad,” he said.
Homelessness as Gregory Sanchez experienced it is a relatively new phenomenon. Academics began documenting people sleeping in parks and bus stations in the early 1980s. Then, as now, researchers attributed it to a mixture of falling wages, rising costs. housing and a frayed safety net combined with addiction and untreated mental illness.
Another factor, which has largely been lost in history, has been the loss of one-bedroom hotels, which were a crucial source of last resort accommodation. This is what prompted tenants to delay the conversion of the Somerton. In 1984, when Mr Lembi applied to the city for permission to renovate the Somerton from a residential hotel to a tourist hotel, he was challenged by Randy Shaw, a longtime housing advocate who founded Tenderloin Housing. Clinic in 1980 and still runs it today. He eventually negotiated a settlement that allowed the two dozen long-term residents to stay in what would become the Diva Hotel.