“I’m blessed because I’ve done a lot, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve experienced a lot of bad things – but I am still living through it. I woke up this morning, so I guess I am doing something right in life.”
Jerry Jones is originally from New Orleans and has lived in San Francisco for over 33 years. Growing up in New Orleans, Jerry began playing the saxophone in third grade. His love of music landed him an enrollment in the prestigious NOCCA–New Orleans Center for Creative Arts–for high school, with classmates like Harry Connick Jr. After high school Jerry was able to travel the world as an emergency seaman, working on both container and passenger ships, traveling to ports as far away as Tel Aviv. And wherever Jerry went, his saxophone went with him. An accomplished musician, he has performed with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Harry Connick Jr, Herbie Lewis and Johnny Lee Hooker.
Jerry is always thinking of others. Before he experienced homelessness, he was the head of a household living with five roommates. When someone was short on the rent Jerry would always pitch in to help, but eventually the rent became unsustainable and he found himself without a permanent place to live. Things went downhill from there. Sometimes he would couch surf, or stay in a hotel, or sleep on the street. He would sleep with his saxophone strapped to his leg to keep it from being stolen. “My saxophone was like an appendix, stuck to me,” and his sax was there to help him as he struggled to find housing. By playing in BART and around town he sometimes made enough cash to get a room for a night.
A Big Turn
Life took a big turn in the right direction when Jerry finally found supportive housing through HomeRise. In 2015 Jerry was placed in the Rachel Townsend Apartments (RTA) and relief washed over him as he settled into a stable home. “I felt relief, happy, everything all in one; I was just a ball of joy. It was a great moment to know you had a roof over your head.” And Jerry is still thinking of others. He helped restore an old piano at RTA and wants to offer concerts to his fellow residents, and he continues to look out and offer help to his homeless neighbors.
The future looks bright
Thanks to HomeRise, Jerry’s future looks bright. His dream is to return to his family home in New Orleans with a long-term goal to open a storefront that offers healthy eating options, especially since obesity is a big problem in NOLA.
Before the pandemic, he filled his days with music, playing at several venues around town in several bands playing jazz, blues and reggae. And Jerry isn’t just a musical artist, he is also a prolific visual artist working in mixed media to create haunting abstract works. He would love to someday show these works in a gallery setting.
Jerry can’t wait to get back to playing live. Luckily, this year you can hear him performing at our 30th Birthday Bash celebrating three decades of changing lives.
“My music saved me more than anything.”