Clean drinking water is a highly sought after commodity for those living on the streets.
Access to clean water and basic sanitation has been declared a human right by the United Nations. Think Dignity funds the provision of water to those living on the streets through our homeless advocate, David Ross, "The Waterman."
David 'Waterman' Ross. January 27, 1935 - April 9, 2018
San Diego David was his given name, fitting for a man who would take on the Goliaths of our time. But for those privileged to know David in the past 20 years, he was affectionately known as the "Waterman." It was in part a literal nickname. After finding a woman under an overpass and reviving her with a sip of water, David spent countless hours each day and into the night for 18 years handing out water to the homeless on the streets of "America's finest city" paid with his meager Social Security checks. It was also metaphorical.
David had a profound empathy for those whom society has discarded, and understood it took love to quench the thirst of a human soul. As David would say: "Ain't no mug without a hug." David's hugs and slang were legendary for his "brothers from another mother" and "sisters from another mister." It was among this unlikely family of the homeless that David finally found his home. David joked that he went "from the Ghetto to the Meadow" and back again in later years.
Raised in a boy's home after his father was killed in Detroit, David enlisted in the Army at 16 for the Korean War and went on to enjoy success as a Mercedes dealer. David's late wife, Sandy, died suddenly in her early 30s, and David raised their three children on his own, hustling to make a living at dealerships from Texas to California before suffering a heart attack and leaving the car business. Not one to be defeated, David got back up again, and through sheer force of will, became a powerful advocate for the homeless.
An admirer of Mohammad Ali, David would quip: "I may be white, but my game is tight!" Among his many accomplishments, David and attorney Scott Dreher secured a settlement with the City in 2011 on behalf of homeless residents whose most prized possessions were destroyed in a sweep. The suit lead to the creation of a Transitional Storage Center for the homeless, now run by Think Dignity. David also installed portable restrooms with the help of Diamond Env'l and Ace Parking.
David's efforts, in collaboration with Think Dignity, culminated in a Basic Dignity campaign to secure permanent public restrooms in May 2010. The number of 24/7 restrooms in East Village has since increased, but not quickly enough or in sufficient numbers to prevent the Hepatitis A outbreak in 2017. Until his final days, David continued to work tirelessly to provide water and advocate for access to basic human needs, such as water and sanitation.
In the early morning of April 9, 2018, the Waterman passed away at his home. He is survived by his beloved one-eyed dog, Topspin; longtime compadre and tennis buddy, Dr. Suzanne Afflalo; adopted daughter, DeAnna Tassie; sons, David Jr. and Randy; friends and allies, Emma Lugo, Donna Frye, Walter Redondo, Colleen Ferrell, Scott Dreher, Rachel Jensen, Danny McCray, and all those involved in Think Dignity; and his chosen family thousands of homeless who languish to this day on the streets of San Diego. "David and I were an unusual pair but had so much in common. As his best friend and surrogate sister, I was the biggest cheerleader and supporter of his street mission. Knowing it was his GOD assignment, he dedicated the last 20 years of his life spreading love, laughter, hope, and encouragement to every homeless person he met," said Dr. Afflalo.
We hope David's passing will shine a light on the humanity of the homeless and the inhumanity of their plight.
Details about a memorial fund are forthcoming. Email DavidRossMemorial@gmail.com or call (858) 859-1757 for information.
We are excited to announce that the Democratic Socialists of America San Diego (the Housing and Homelessness Working Group) will be continuing on with Waterman Dave's legacy and will continue water distribution to our vulnerable unhoused neighbors in downtown San Diego. Please visit their website to find out more http://dsasandiego.org/.