Submitted by Gil Field
Kate, Stan, and I went downtown about 8 PM out on Sunday night, December 17th, carrying 20 sleeping bags sets, three dozen hard boiled eggs, and a dozen pairs of crew socks. It was good outing.
I have asked each of us to reflect on what we each experienced:
I was honored once again to join SD Veterans For Peace Chapter 91 members, Gil and Stan, on Monday evening, December 17th, in distributing new sleeping bags to some of the many homeless living on the streets of San Diego. As part of SDVFP's ongoing Compassion Campaign, we packed 20 sleeping bags into the car and took to the streets downtown, looking for anyone without protection from the cold December weather.
We were surprised to see that most of the homeless tent and tarp communities that had lined so many streets downtown, as recently as one month ago,were gone. Many homeless city dwellers were forced to 'move on', some were provided temporary shelter near Balboa Park, and some were simply arrested.
Still, there was no shortage of people trying to stay warm with a thin piece of cardboard between them and the cold sidewalk. We were able to hand out all 20 sleeping bags in about an hour. At the end of the night, we solemnly noted that 20 more people were sleeping better in warm sleeping bags.
Winter's just getting started here in San Diego, the nights dipping into the 40's, and San Diego Veterans For Peace will be out there again within the week, distributing warm bags to the cold and needy on the streets. I'm so humbled tobe of help with that.
Last night Kate, associate member of the chapter, accompanied Gil and me, delivering sleeping bags to our homeless San Diegans. We also had socks and thirty hard-boiled eggs which were supplied by Kate (delivered with salt, pepper and napkins ... a nice touch).
Slightly mystifying, but not unusual, were the empty streets on our usual routes at the start of our errand ...nobody to be seen anywhere for a half-hour or so. Then. like magic, the needy were suddenly there, in numbers that consumed our supplies of twenty sleeping bags, socks and thirty eggs in near record time, and we were able to get home much earlier than expected.
And, of course, also as usual, on our way out of the area we sighted many people we judged really needed the warmth of one of our sleeping bags, but the supply (twenty) was gone. ... It is getting cold out there at night, and it pains us to see folks we could not help this time.
As always, the folks we met on the street were all different, and some gave us surprises. We are used to the hugs and the blessings, but one exuberant recipient high-fived me almost knocking me off my feet. When our evening was about finished we came across a young(ish) man, between six and seven feet tall who could have used a pair of socks. We were out of the athletic kind, but Kate had brought pairs of womens' socks, and they were pink ... Somehow that didn't seem quite right, so all parties took a pass.
It was a good night for the Compassion Campaign.
Note: Stan is 88 years old and a Korean War veteran.
Each time we go out it is different. On Sunday night we first noticed a lack of homeless people where we usually find them. But soon, as we got closer to the east village, we found a variety of small camps and singles/twos in some of the most prominent and obvious locations, right outside of some nice condos and upscale stores.
We stopped beside a rather petite woman (we could not tell her gender at first) who was sleeping on the pavement with virtually nothing and she was thrilled to get a sleeping bag, some eggs, and some socks. She told us that she had been getting by with a small tent and some blankets but that they had all been stolen when she went off to get some food. This story was repeated again and again on Sunday night and we wondered if the thieves were other homeless people or cops or city workers.
The night ended across the street from the city's new $170 million library where about 10 people were sleeping with little or no warm gear. 5-6 of them accepted our bags and were thrilled, while the others declined respectfully, mentioning that they enjoyed traveling light. We went home saddened by the conditions downtown and wishing that we had an infinite quantity of sleeping bags.
The "Compassion Campaign" now continues year-round, with veteran and associate chapter members (some who are in their 80's) quietly delivering bag sets downtown late at night after the homeless have bedded down for the night. This makes finding those truly in need of items easier!
Bag sets are now purchased directly from the Coleman Company in Colorado and are ordered in quantities of 50 or 100 as donations come in. The Coleman Company generously provides bag sets at tax-free wholesale prices and pays the shipping charges to San Diego. The cost of a set is $33. All administrative costs for this program are pre-paid through the financial help of a generous donor.
Donations may be made online with a credit card or PayPal or checks made out to "SDVFP" can be mailed to:
13805 Royal Melbourne Square
San Diego, CA 92128
Each donor receives a card of thanks and a receipt for tax purposes; SDVFP is a 501-C-3 veteran's educational organization.
For additional information, please contact Gil Field at Gilfield48@gmail.com or (858) 342-1964.