A few days ago, my friend, David "The Water Man" Ross was stabbed again by a homeless person while giving out water to the homeless. (He was first stabbed a couple of years ago.) He is a man I admire greatly, doing important work downtown with those who have less than nothing. He's fine; his arm is all bandaged and healing, but I worry about him, as many of the homeless who haunt our streets really need to be medically and/or psychologically treated, and are a danger to themselves and others.
I wanted to post an award-winning video we produced about a day in the life of San Diego homeless, featuring The Water Man, along with Congressman Bob Filner and Rachel Jensen, Director of the Girls Think Tank. It's called "Small Acts of Kindness." Following that is a story I found online about Dave. I couldn't have written it better myself!
By Fernando Romero, August 30, 2008
DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – They call him the Water Man. And with good reason. David Ross spends most of his day distributing free bottles of water among the homeless. Ross, who frequently addresses the San Diego City Council on behalf of the down-and-out, says the homeless people he sees every day suffer from physical problems and are malnourished. “So giving them water is essential, or else they would die.”
“I know there aren't many people out there who care, but people should know that water is not a privilege,” Ross said. “We all have a right to water. So why aren't we providing water fountains for them?”
Those who know him say Ross has earned the trust of those he's trying to help.
“He's got their confidence. He gives them lots of personal empathy. He gives them more than water – he gives them a human connection, respect, and what humans need the most, love,” said San Diego pastor Gerry Limpic. “He's reaching people I can't reach.”
Ross, who said he is either 67 or 71 (“I lied about my age to join the Navy”), was once a car salesman and general manager of a dealership and made “serious money.” He said a heart attack and a stroke combined with an epiphany – that he had been wasting his life in pursuit of cash while ignoring those who had nothing – changed him. He came to San Diego in the early 1990s and joined Father Joe Carroll's St. Vincent de Paul Village as a volunteer.
He worked his way up to becoming a paid chief case worker. Ultimately, he said, his lack of computer knowledge pushed him out of the job in 2005.
“I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do next,” he said.
He started by collecting socks and blankets for the homeless. But it was an encounter with a diabetic woman that gave him a focus. She was dehydrated and asked him for a drink from his water bottle.
“I went to the 7-Eleven, bought a couple of dozen of bottles of water and started giving them away,” he said. Today, he calls himself the “CEO of H2O,” and estimates that he can distribute hundreds of bottles among the homeless in a day.
Ross collects money and water from various donors, charities and churches, including Limpic's Existence Church. Ross also relies on his Social Security checks. John Urzua, who sleeps under a bridge near San Diego City College, said Ross “is one of the good guys. Without him some of us would be in bad trouble.”
LaVetta Greene, 38, who often sleeps in city parks, said Ross is a special person, a man “who really cares about me, about my health, and helps in any way he can to keep me going – water, candy, blankets, and, once in a while, even medicine if I'm sick.”
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, proclaimed Feb. 13, 2007, as David Ross Day in his district. The proclamation “says I'm a good man, and that is beautiful,” Ross said. However, “I would prefer a few dozen cases of water to give away.”