By Matt Liebowitz
Carmel Valley resident Gil Field and his fellow San Diego Veterans for Peace (SDVFP) members are hitting the downtown San Diego streets and making a positive, necessary impact in the quality of life for hundreds of homeless people, many of whom served in combat.
Now in the beginning of its second year, the group’s “Compassion campaign” is just that, a coordinated effort by a few tireless and dedicated veterans. Established in December 2010, the Compassion Campaign is the nonprofit group’s crusade to provide sleeping bag sets and waterproof gear to San Diego’s homeless population.
About twice a month, SDVFP members head to a few areas in downtown San Diego known to be popular sleeping spots for the homeless, and hand out about 50 sleeping sets, each of which includes a sleeping bag, a waterproof stuff sack, and a heavy-duty plastic poncho.
The campaign raised more than $18,000 in its first year, enough to deliver 725 sets to homeless people staying in several locations downtown, including spots near the Civic Center, along 16th Street, on Pacific Highway and in camps under three I-5 overpasses.
SDVFP Director of Communications Gil Field said he and his fellow SDFVP members saw groups of homeless people sleeping on the pavement on cold and rainy days last year, and decided, as a group dedicated to helping veterans, many of whom are homeless — Field estimated the number to be 30 to 40 percent — that it was their duty to take action. From there, the Compassion Campaign became a project that the SDFVP put its weigh and benevolent spirit behind.
Citing those who return from war with post traumatic stress disorder and are unable to receive adequate care, Field said, “Veterans on the street, whether we like it or not, are victims of war.”
The program has been a success, Field said, and the homeless who receive the group’s sleeping sets are “so incredibly magnanimous and generous and incredibly grateful.” Field said homeless people have even turned down his help, directing him to deliver the sleeping bag sets to another homeless person who needs it more.
“They said, ‘I don’t need it as much as the guy on the next block,’” Field said. “It’s astonishing, some of these people have nothing but the guy down the block has less. You’d think somebody who sleeps on the street, when they’re offered something, would take it regardless.”
That selflessness struck a chord with Field and his fellow SDVFP members, including Jack Doxey and Jan Ruhman, who have taken now to bringing, in addition to the sleeping sets, an extra car worth of cold-weather clothing to hand out.
For its second year, the Compassion Campaign hopes to beat its first year fundraising total of $18,000, and is looking for civic groups and corporate sponsors to help. “Some of these groups can just give you $1,000 and it’s nothing, but to us that’s huge,” Field said.
For more information on the San Diego Veterans For Peace and its Compassion Campaign, visit
- To donate, make out checks to the San Diego Veterans For Peace and mail them to Treasurer, 11575 Caminito La Bar #23, San Diego, CA 92126. All donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of donations go directly to purchasing sleeping sets.