By Stan Levin
Three of us, two members of San Diego Veterans for Peace and a guest, are jammed into a Prius — along with 20 new sleeping bags. We are driving slowly south, down 16th Street in search of people lying on the sidewalks.
Chapter members have been here many times over the past five or six years, and have distributed more than 3,200 bags to unfortunates on the street.
We park some distance from the homeless person. Caution and intuition are at work now, tempered by experience. One of us stays with the car, while the other two make contact.
I carefully wake the sleeper up. He’s wrapped in a ratty old blanket.
“Hello, sir … hello, sir.”
He turns and gives us a suspicious eye. Maybe he suspects that we are the law, or evangelists, or someone aiming to hurt him.
“Hello. Sorry to get you up. How you doin’ tonight?”
“OK,” he says.
“Where’s your stuff?”
“What are you sleeping on?”
“Piece of cardboard.”
“Can I give you a sleeping bag?”
He’s awake now. Disbelief is written on his face.
“OK, hang on a minute.”
I give my point-person at the car a hand signal of “One,” and point to the person at my feet. They’re bringing over a bag now.
“Did you eat tonight?”
We give him some food and a pair of socks. We give him whatever help it takes to get him into bed for the night. And, if he opens up and wants to talk, we’ll give him that as well.
“Gotta go now, friend.”
“God bless you. Thank you.”
“It’s OK, you’re welcome. Bye. Take care of yourself.”
We wave. He rolls over and is not with us anymore. On to the next one in need.