TRUSTEE PETER SEIDLER IS WORKING TO HELP THE HOMELESS
Each Tuesday at 1:00 p.m., a group of San Diego civic leaders gather on the second floor of the Padres’ Petco Park offices.
Called by Peter Seidler, the Padres managing partner and member of USD’s Board of Trustees, the group hashes out a weighty problem: a humanitarian response to the American pandemic of homelessness that is especially prevalent in San Diego. The region’s Hepatitis-A outbreak — centered largely in the East Village homeless communities just a bad hop from the stadium USA Today recently called the most beautiful in baseball — drew national headlines.
Seidler had long ago grown impatient with the pace at which city government and social service agencies were addressing the problem. “It’s time to act,” Seidler told the San Diego Union-Tribune in mid-2016. “There’s been plenty of analysis done.”
Seidler and restaurateur Dan Shea led the private effort to raise $180,000 to purchase temporary housing — called tents but more closely resembling military barracks. Each tent structure can accommodate up to 250 people and includes sanitary facilities and health services.
Somewhat incredibly, Seidler has taken criticism for his efforts from those who complain his compassion is more driven by the practical business motivation to remove a burgeoning homeless population from Petco Park’s front yard. But Seidler’s passion is personal.
The 56-year-old — named for his uncle, Peter O’Malley, the baseball visionary who played a formative role in transforming the Dodgers organization into a model of baseball success — is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer survivor. During chemotherapy treatments, Seidler would often relax by taking walks. Walking and sometimes jogging in the night, Seidler often covers a dozen miles or more. And he meets people.
“I’m on a first-name basis with all the convenience store owners,” he says of his nighttime hikes in the neighborhood. “And It’s hard not to notice the homeless. There are those who fit the stereotype — too stoned to talk, or with mental health issues — but I see a lot of young adults who have aged out of foster care, and the
elderly. It’s a human tragedy.”
Seidler says the chemo treatments impacted his perspective to a greater degree than merely compelling him to walk, walk, walk.
“If you were prideful, you aren’t after that experience,” he says. “Like my disease, homelessness doesn’t discriminate. I’ve met a lot of newly homeless, people who have lost jobs or had some personal event that put them on the street. They’re fellow humans who hit hard times. It’s hard not to see that and think: ‘There but for the Grace of God go I.’”
Seidler and Shea worked with the Lucky Duck Foundation to fund and erect the two tents; one in East Village and one in the Midway district. Seidler says the tent structures are a bridge to the longer-term solutions being evaluated by the mayor and city council.
If the protracted political process of determining locations for the tents frustrates Seidler — and it does — it doesn’t lessen his resolve to provide help to people living on the street.
“Every day that goes by when those tents aren’t up, people suffer when they don’t have to be suffering,” he says. “Homeless people don’t have a political action committee, and this is a real human crisis. We’re going to keep working and making noise and hopefully helping people who need help.” — Timothy McKernan