San Diego central library
The San Diego central library. Photo courtesy of the city

I’m a homeless woman who started visiting the San Diego Central Library regularly in January 2022, and for almost two years following that unfortunate month, I have been bullied by the security and have seen others bullied.

Homeless people in the Central Library are always guilty until proven innocent.

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I once witnessed two security guards aggressively escort an intoxicated woman off the property. She hadn’t even done anything except walk onto the grounds, but they were verbally cruel in ordering her out.

Once the intoxicated woman was gone, I saw one of the guards tell a homeless man to get a job and then mock him.

I myself have been subjected to much abuse, all of which I cannot list for the sake of remaining succinct. There was the time I was beaten up and robbed of my smartphone in front of the building. Security refused to help me and told me to get off the grounds.

Then there was a security guard who harassed me repeatedly. He was always staring until I was uncomfortable, kept trying to greet me when I was busy working at a desk (I am a writer), wanted to stand over me and watch me buy underwear off Amazon on my computer — none of which was part of his job.

The other security guards seemed to understand boundaries and respect.

This was the only security guard making me feel preyed upon and uncomfortable with his intrusive behavior, yet if I reported his behavior, I was dismissed. He was just being “friendly” by constantly trying to force me to engage him. The supervisor even told me it was his job to stare at me.

After two years of reporting this man and having the staff take his side, it was clear that no one was going to listen to me because I’m a homeless person. I’m the enemy.

The final straw came when the security guard verbally insulted me. 

One day he stared at me again while I was on the library rooftop eating noodles. So I made a face at him. In revenge, he walks by and makes a passive aggressive comment about how he always “eats good” and is so happy.

This comment was directed at me and was mocking me for being homeless. I had already reported him several times before this instance, so now he was attempting to be more covert about disrespecting me. This was not something I could report because he had chosen to hide behind plausible deniability.

And I might have ignored this childish and petty jab, except I got on the elevator and he followed with another guard. I was forced to ride the elevator with them and listen to more of their conversation.

By the time I got off the elevator, I was so fed-up and angry that I turned around and showed the security guards my middle finger. Then when they became aggressive and angry, I smiled and told them I would leave, and I did.

It was after this incident that I began to understand why homeless people could become angry and yell at the staff and have to be escorted out. Everyone always assumes the homeless person is just crazy or classless or misbehaved when the reality is homeless people who come into the Central Library and are routinely humiliated, insulted, and mistreated.

When someone keeps chipping away at your spirit every day with continuous disrespect, of course you will lash out. It’s only human.

Yet in the eyes of many, homeless people are not human.

Ashley Gray is an Army veteran and Ashford University graduate who has been homeless for two years.