San Diego

Nonprofit Recovers Stolen Van Used to Transport Homeless Youth

The van is used daily by the local nonprofit, Urban Street Angels; it was stolen but later recovered

A van used by a San Diego nonprofit to help transport homeless youth was stolen this week but was recovered overnight, the organization said.

The Urban Street Angels said Saturday that the stolen van was spotted in the Sports Arena area around 12:30 a.m. Four people in the van were stopped by police and arrested.

M.G. Perez, a volunteer with the Urban Street Angels, told NBC 7 the van was returned to the nonprofit with "minor damage and in need of a good car wash and cleaning."

The van will be up and running again in time for the nonprofit's night shelter on Tuesday, Perez added.

The van was stolen Wednesday; it had been spotted several times around San Diego before it was finally recovered.

Urban Street Angels was founded five years ago by Eric Lovett. He said the van had been an important part of what keeps his group running and the theft of it was a big blow to their work.

“It was a vehicle that we use to help save and change lives,” said Lovett. “That’s what got me the most, why would you steal from us?”

Lovett started the group when he was feeding homeless in Ocean Beach back in 2012.

“I was on the street giving out sandwiches and water and a young man named Steven, he is 19 years old, he said, 'Thanks for the food but what I really need is a place to live,'" Lovett recounted.

He began housing homeless youth in his home, then partnered with people in the community to start the program.

Urban Street Angels work with Mission Gathering Christian Church on Polk Street in North Park. Every Tuesday, they house about 30 homeless youth there, and the van is used to transport the youth from Ocean Beach to that center.

“We picked them up on Tuesday night, and then we took them back on Wednesday morning,” explained Lovett. “This week we took them back, and our volunteer parked the van right out here. We showed up the next morning and [in] the afternoon, and it was gone.”

People in the community spotted the van being driven across the city. On Thursday night, Perez saw a person cruising with the van on Oregon Street and Monroe Avenue.

Others spotted the van Friday afternoon, parked at a gym parking lot in Point Loma. Police encouraged the public to report sightings of the vehicle.

Now, it's back home where it belong.

For more information on Urban Street Angels, visit their website.

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