When my husband was alive, he belonged to a wonderful organization entitled “Veteran’s for Peace.” As the title suggests, the group was made up of veteran’s from many “conflicts” and they all had one purpose – “Peace.”
Although not a member myself, I am still on the VFP mailing list and received this message today that I would like to share with you. The world for veterans today is so bleak; the feelings about the homeless population is shameful in so many areas that this report may shed a light on what is happening in our world today.
(Please note: The report was sent out to the members by J. Allan Ruhman – a member of the VFP. It should be noted that I did some editing before submitting it to the SDFP.) In Mr. Ruhman’s words:
“On Sunday, February 17th, from 4:30 pm until around 8:00 pm, John Milhous, Tetsu Matsui and myself - J. Allan Ruhman – conducted our Chapter’s first “Compassion Campaign Outreach” into North County. We had intended to start the outreach in Escondido and then hit Vista and Oceanside with the locations we had been given by churches and other contacts. We never made it out of Escondido.
We took 20 Sleeping Bags, Ponchos and Stuff Sacks and 1 woman’s back pack and 15 men’s back packs as well as 2 pairs of each shoe size that REI donated to us, 11 sizes from 8 – 13, half sizes included. This gave us a total of 22 pairs of shoes; 15 Hooded Sweat Shirts sizes M – Large – XL - 2X & 3X; gloves; 8 wind breakers and 8 jackets and 8 pairs of pants.
We stopped first at Grape Day Park on the North side of City Hall and walked through the park looking for Homeless American’s that needed our help. We passed out 4 Bags sets, 3 back packs, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 hooded sweat shirts, gloves, etc. As usual, the people took the items they truly needed and all were very grateful.
When I closed the back of the SUV and turned around there was an Escondido Police Officer approaching us from his squad car parked 3-4 spaces from us. He asked what we were doing. I introduced myself and put out my hand to shake his, which he took, and asked him his name first name since on his vest name tag it said “J” and his last name. He surprisingly gave it to me. I let him know who we were and that we had passed out over 1,500 Sleeping Bags etc. on the streets of downtown San Diego to those in need over the past three years and that tonight we were doing our 1st outreach into North County. He was a nice guy but he told us that Escondido had just passed an ordinance that prohibited the distribution of anything to the homeless in City Parks and that they were not allowed to sleep in City Parks or on the streets or in alleys.
I asked where they gather and sleep and he said in bushes and canyons when the sun goes down. He said they direct all homeless to the Interfaith Community Outreach Center, a non-profit started by Churches, Jewish Temples and Muslim Mosques in the community and sponsored by Ralph’s Grocery and many other corporations and business’ in the community. He also directed me there and said it was perfect timing as they were about to serve dinner from their half a block long building.
He also told me of the many programs and assistance they offer, like a block of about 100 Apartments they purchased that house the homeless; another apartment building for drug rehab and still another for alcoholic rehab. Other services they provide are two hot meals a day and a cold lunch served from their kitchen into their dining room. Grocery bags are distributed to any one in need once a week and help is offered from various government services that are available.
We pulled through the gate into their parking lot and noticed three 15 foot Box Trucks. We entered the only open door we saw which led into the pantry off the kitchen and asked “is anybody home?”. On the second shout one of the kitchen staff came around the corner and I asked to see the boss. He came around from the kitchen with an attitude and asked us to leave because no one was allowed in the kitchen or the pantry. I introduced myself and put out my hand which he started to shake and instead gave me a fist bump. His name was Karl, a U.S. Army Veteran who served during the Vietnam Era.
After we spoke for a few minutes he calmed down and I asked questions on where we could find the homeless and told him what we were doing. He told me the same thing the officer told me but said they were serving dinner in 30 minutes and that we could help those who were lined up and who were in need. He told me all about their work and pointed me to a group of men inside the gates sitting around a couple of tables with umbrellas and said they were housed on the site. I approached them, but quickly found out that none of them needed any gear. However, several needed shoes, jackets, pants, hoodies and gloves.
By the time we left we had passed out the items they needed and had distributed 6 sleeping bag sets; 7 back packs; 7 pairs of shoes; the remainder of the hooded sweat shirts; 5-6 wind breakers; 5 – 6 jackets; 3-4 pairs of pants and 10-12 pairs of gloves. When we were finished we left 4 men’s back packs and 10 sleeping bags placed in their storage room Karl assured me they would go to those in need as they approached Interfaith for help with clothes, warm blankets, shoes, pants, etc.
All in all SDVFP’s 1st Outreach into North County was very worthwhile and the looks on folks faces showed us how grateful they were.. We left feeling great, as always, for reaching out and helping those American’s most in need.
One particular young African American Woman, 19-22 years old, new to the streets, had on sandals with socks, pants and a T-Shirt with a light jacket and with a suit case on wheels with a blanket on top and no other sleeping bag. We helped with a Bag set, a great winter coat with a hood, that was donated by one of our members that fit her perfectly; a pair of shoes; a hooded sweat shirt and a ladies back pack. She was very grateful and in real serious need of help in combating the cold nights and rain that is on its way this week.
We’ll be back and on our 2nd outreach into North County and will sojourn into Vista and Oceanside.
PS. Sorry for being long winded but I wanted to give you the full story. Hopefully we will be able to raise more money for the Compassion Campaign to continue helping those in need through this winter. All of us and our donors can be proud of the people we’ve helped and of what we have been able to accomplish.”
For more information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or write to Gil Field - GField@san.rr.com