Housing navigator Levi Giafaglione of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the East Village on Dec. 20, 2022.
Housing navigator Levi Giafaglione of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the East Village on Dec. 20, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A man named Blue made a habit of sitting on the sidewalk with his legs outstretched, taking every inch he needed to be comfortable.

“Dude, you’re blocking the sidewalk,” a passerby would say.

“I live here!” Blue would reply.

This was Blue’s flex — his way to assert dominance while living unsheltered.

Blue was member of Levi Giafaglione’s “street family.” Giafaglione said he and his street family all did their own kind of flex — to find some form of control in an otherwise chaotic life. Giafaglione jaywalked.

“That was one of my little things I used to do to … have any sense of power or control. Just crossing the street whenever I wanted to,” he explained. “Because it was like, ‘you stopped for me.'”

No longer homeless, Giafaglione now works for National Alliance on Mental Illness, serving unhoused San Diegans with tools and services they need to get care and housing.

He says he understands keenly how unsheltered folks feel and how hard it is to find a way out, and that informs his work.

On this VOSD Podcast bonus episode, Giafaglione tells host Scott Lewis how he first became homeless while living in Los Angeles, how he navigated the constant change and challenges of living with unhoused communities — drugs, cold nights, complicated shelter systems and lack of control.

Recently on the VOSD Podcast, throughout the 2022 election and in local public affairs discourse, elected officials reiterated how the homelessness crisis is getting worse with no relief in sight. Giafaglione and Lewis talk about how that feels from the perspective of those living the crisis and what could be done about it.

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Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at nate@vosd.org.

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