SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — While homelessness continues to be an issue in San Diego, one group of veterans has been quietly doing their part to help. Every week, the organization hands out sleeping bags to people living on the street.
San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the country with more than 8,500 people unsheltered according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
That's why Veterans for Peace is making it their mission to help the community. When most people are coming home from work, they are packing up and going out to help those who have no place to call home.
Under dim, buzzing lights of a South County shed, David Patterson pulls out sleeping bags and socks then loads them into his car.
The 66-year old veteran is not preparing for a retreat or camping trip, but rather to deliver his precious cargo to those who would otherwise be sleeping on the cold ground.
It has become a weekly routine for Patterson and the group from Veterans for Peace.
Patterson served in the Air Force but says nothing could have prepared him for what's happening in America's Finest City.
"When you look out onto the streets in San Diego, now it’s almost like a war zone... apocalyptic,” he said. “People are laying all over the streets freezing, shivering."
San Diego's Veterans for Peace first saw a need back in 2010 and started collecting sleeping bags and hand delivering them.
To date the group has distributed more than 3,800 sleeping bags to the homeless community.
On a cold February night, News 8's Amanda Shotsky joined the group downtown to see how the process works and meet those thankful to get a sleeping bag.
“One more night, and all I need is a sleeping bag to get through,” said Juliana Cole.
She said she’s been trying to find a stable living situation as long as she can remember.
“[The hardest part] is the pain of constantly walking and walking until you can't walk anymore,” said Juliana.
Others are newly homeless, casualties of a down-turned economy.
At the end of each night, when the sleeping bags are gone, Patterson says the harsh truth is always knowing that this is only a temporary solution to a growing problem.
"You have to drive away, because you have no place to take them,” he said.
Still the veterans who take part - some nearly 90 years old - say this a mission they don't plan to discontinue anytime soon.
“I’m trying to help somebody,” said Patterson. “I’ll just do it until I can’t do it anymore."
Veterans for Peace say they have reached out to Mayor Kevin Faulconer for assistance.
They also said they always need donations and advocates - people who can go out with them.
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