Special Report: Community outreach by Old Globe Theater gives boost to homeless veteran

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — As the city of San Diego considers deep budget cuts to the arts, some people may be asking, why do these arts groups need city support?

You don’t have to buy a ticket to a concert, a play or visit a museum to know that the arts enhance our appreciation of life.

And one man personally bears witness to the transformational power of art.

Justin Davis is very proud of the work he’s done in the scenery shop of the Old Globe Theater.

While building the sets in the shop, Justin was also working on something bigger. Without realizing it, he was also rebuilding his life. 

Just a year ago, the 47-year-old Navy veteran could not have imagined the life he has now.

When the one-time Navy Corpsman, who had served in Iraq, came back to California, his life began to dissolve and was quickly replaced by the despair of PTSD, homelessness and drug addiction.

Last year, Justin, still trying to get sober, was staying at the Veterans’ Village of San Diego when the Old Globe came by with an outreach program called, "Behind the Curtain," a program that let the veterans see the inner workings of a professional theater company.

Justin was fascinated and then surprised when the theater offered to make him an apprentice.

For three months, the Globe paid him to work in the scenery shop.

As the theater’s technical director, Ben Thoron oversees all the work. In his role as an apprentice, Thoron said Justin was expected to pitch in just like everyone else, to working with metal and wood and moving the bulky sets.

During those long days in the shop, Justin said something happened to him. Something he wasn’t expecting.

After years of feeling isolated and alone, a door was opening and it was inviting to come in.

Justin said he found his strength in community. It is the same emphasis on community that makes organizations like the Old Globe Theater more important than ever.

Barry Edelstein is the Old Globe’s artistic director. To continue its outreach programs for veterans, seniors and those in shelters and prisons, Edelstein relies on funding from the city, money that may be cut from next year’s budget.

Art has always been a window to greater understanding, and for Justin, it’s been his path to discovery, to finding again all the lost parts of himself.

Eldestein said he’s hoping the city will make good on a vow to reverse the funding cuts and actually restore more money to the arts.

As for Justin, he’s in school now and getting ready to move out of the Veterans’ Village and into his own apartment later this month. 

Categories: Local San Diego News