Someone San Diego Should Know: Beau Hill

Beau Hill, a peer support specialist for Vista Hill tried to counsel a homeless woman at Alpha Project’s Rosecrans Shelter, but she resisted. The woman gave up on life and yelled at Hill, “What do you know!? You don’t stand in my shoes!”

Hill, 55, told the woman about his life. If he could deal with his demons, so could she.

After a long, tearful discussion about life and hope, the woman took the first step toward recovery.

Hill, who sees about 25 people at the shelter every day, knows from her own experience that helping the homeless is often about dealing with lifelong trauma.

Born in 1967, Hill grew up in Florida living with three cousins, his mother and grandmother. He never met his father.

He describes his upbringing as “very dysfunctional. Lots of physical and sexual abuse starting at age 6 and continuing until 15. Nobody did anything to stop it. I spent a lot of time running away and in group homes.”

At 12, he was introduced to marijuana and alcohol when he was placed with a family of regular users and drinkers. By 15, he was smoking marijuana regularly and believes he was an alcoholic.

He was also bullied in high school for being gay, adding to his trauma.

At 19, Hill met and fell in love with Wayne. They remained together for 26 years until Wayne’s death from cancer in 2012.

The couple moved to Alaska, Seattle and Montana as they pursued job opportunities. While in Seattle, Hill, who has a high school diploma, worked for Microsoft in customer desktop support. In Montana, he started his own business refurbishing computers.

However, he says he was unable to keep jobs or maintain a business due to his alcoholism and meth addiction.

After Wayne’s death and without family connections, Hill felt alone. He turned even more to drugs.

In 2015, at 48, he moved to San Diego to spread Wayne’s ashes. Within two years, his money ran out and Hill was homeless living on the downtown San Diego sidewalks.

“I felt like no one loved me and no one cared,” he said. “I’ve just been high all day.”

“I was beaten one night and left for dead on the trolley tracks. I was beaten at least once a month.”

He was in and out of prison for a misdemeanor and tried to hang himself in prison.

Hill found some solace on the street. “Once you make living on the streets a way of life, there’s a bit of romanticism. You don’t answer to anyone and have no bills to pay.

“At the time, it felt like a good life. Because I walked away from it, it didn’t.”

The turning point for Hill came in 2018 when he was charged with felony assault and faced three years in prison.

A judge offered him a chance to avoid prison if he completed Behavioral Health Court, a tough, two-year diversion program of counseling, frequent drug testing, job preparation and housing support.

“It was hard,” Hill said. “You have to follow the rules and stay clean and sober.

“I told myself I was worthless, broken, most of my life. Those thoughts had to end. People cared about me now.”

After 19 months, Hill graduated with work, sobriety and support. He continues with Narcotics Anonymous and knows he must always maintain sobriety.

“I’m done with the dark side. This program saved my life,” Hill said. “A light went on that I have a purpose. I can help others, be an example and be there for them.”

Today, Hill is a certified collaborative care specialist and expects to receive Medi-Cal certification in 2023.

He advises those who live on the streets to accept help. “Come see me at Vista Hill,” he said. “I will go above and beyond. I will hold your hand, I will sit with you and walk with you. I’m there for you because I know how hard it is when you’re alone.”

About this series

Jan Goldsmith is a retired member of the U-T Community Advisory Board. He is an attorney and former law partner, judge, state legislator, San Diego city attorney and Poway mayor.

Someone San Diego Should Know is a column written by members of the U-T Community Advisory Board about local people who are interesting and notable for their experiences, accomplishments, creativity or credentials.