SAN DIEGO — An icon of San Diego’s fight against homelessness has died.
Father Joe Carroll died in hospice care at the age of 80, leaving behind a legacy of caring for the less fortunate.
On Sunday, loved ones, families, and strangers left behind flowers and messages for Father Joe at the village’s Joan Kroc Center on 15th street and Imperial Avenue, with many saying his legacy will live on.
“He’s done a lot for me,” said Father Joe’s client Arturo Vizcarra. “He’s the reason I’m still here.”
Father Joe started his legacy of care for the homeless by handing out peanut butter sandwiches downtown in the 1980s.
He took over St. Vincent de Paul Village from 1982 until his retirement in 2011. The organization was renamed in “Father Joe’s Villages” in 2015 in his honor.
Known as the “Hustler Priest” Father Joe’s nonprofit has helped helped thousands of people struggling with homelessness find shelter, medical assistance, child care, housing and more.
“The ‘Hustler Priest’ is a fancy way of saying that he was a beggar alright, and he begged for money, and begged for the money and resources that he needed not for himself but in order to help the literally thousands,” said Deacon Jim Vargas.
Among the thousands of people helped is four-year-old Max Guarado and his mother Zulema, who have a home because of Father Joe.
“For me he gave me an opportunity to move forward, he gave me a chance you know, and a place to stay,” said Zulema Guarado.
Max left behind his favorite boots and toy with a note saying, “Thanks for giving my mommy one step forward in life.”
Deacon Vargas also says a memorial fund is being set up in Father Joe’s honor and more details about his celebration of life are to come.