A San Diego fundraiser seeks to help a working mom rent an apartment


Lekeita Smith has a steady job, a positive attitude, five children and, her friends say, an infectious laugh.

What she doesn’t have is a home.

“I’ve been trying and trying,” she said recently. “The cost of living out here is so expensive.”

Smith said she became homeless after losing her job at an Oceanside bakery three years ago. She has another job these days, but at $13 an hour she hasn’t been able to afford a room.

She spends nights sleeping behind a car dealership in Pacific Beach before catching a bus to her custodial job at 5:30 or 6 a.m.

An annual count of homeless people conducted in January found 3,971 people were living outdoors in San Diego County and another 3,648 were in shelters.

Some progress has been made this year to reduce those numbers; 400 people are moving into two renovated hotels the city of San Diego bought and another 82 are moving into a renovated hotel bought by Father Joe’s Villages.

Hundreds of others who were staying at a temporary shelter at the San Diego Convention Center also have been connected to housing.

Still, many people like Smith are still on the street. Smith said she has an aversion to shelters, which usually are a first step to being placed into a system that could lead to housing.

“There’s just too many people for me,” said Smith, 37, about shelters. “I can work around them, but I just can’t live with them.”

While homeless people like Smith may fall through the cracks, community members often come forward to help. Amie Zamudio has been that person more than once.

Earlier this year, she and community activist Tasha Williamson raised tens of thousands of dollars to rent hotel rooms to help protect homeless people from the pandemic. One of the first people they took in was Smith.

Zamudio also is a board member for Shoreline Community Services, a nonprofit focused on helping homeless people in La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach.

Her latest effort is a GoFundMe page to help Smith rent an apartment. With a goal of $2,000, Zamudio said the effort is to give Smith some breathing room and a safe, warm place to stay, making her life more stable and her job more secure.

The fundraiser can be found at https://gofund.me/1dd697cb.

“She has a stellar work ethic and the most positive personality,” Zamudio said about Smith. “She is like a ray of sunshine. And she has a laugh that will light up the world.”

Smith has five children, including a 20-year-old daughter who lives in Chicago, where her mother also lives. Her other children live in Hemet with her step sister and uncle. They include a daughter, 12, and sons ages 11, 14 and 17.

Zamudio drives Smith to work on weekend mornings when buses don’t run, and she keeps her custodial uniform in the car for safety. Smith lost her last uniform when someone stole the backpack she carried it in.

Coincidentally Father Joe’s Villages is one of her employer’s clients, and Smith said the homeless people she runs into there probably have no idea she is homeless herself.

Recently a person outside the facility asked her for some spare change and when Smith said she didn’t have any the person spat at her and called her the N word.

“I try my best to ignore them,” she said about such incidents. “I can’t stoop to their level. I try to be better than that.”

Zamudio said she has seen the level of hateful activity against homeless people escalate in Pacific Beach this year, furthering motivating her to help Smith get off the street.

Smith said she is trying to turn her life around and is grateful for what Zamudio and others have done already to help her find a place to stay.

“It’s also a learning lesson for me,” she said. “When you make bad choices in life, there are consequences. I know now to make right choices. It’s just hard now, but I know everything is going to work out. I can’t give up.”





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