“It’s the most walking I’ve done all year!” Jesse Mendez laughs. He can joke about his walk around the marina now, but each step reminds him of how far he’s come.
Mendez used to be homeless, and now he wants to help others find their way home. He explains that anyone can find themselves on the street, and it’s often a mix of bad luck and life choices. “Bad decisions or the economy, just life situations can end you up in need of services,” he says.
Saturday’s walk brought together more than 400 people who are working to tackle San Diego’s homeless crisis.
“We have 9,116 [homeless] individuals, last count, it's gone up by over 400 individuals,” Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages tells NBC 7.
San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the country and the second largest for homeless veterans.
“That's why it's good to have places like Father Joe’s that are here to give hands up instead of handouts,” Mendez reasons.
Father Joe's is where Mendez met his new best friend, Landrian Ashe, and where he also met his wife.
They both now work at Father Joe's helping others who were once in their shoes.
“You can change someone's life every day and it's a great experience,” Ashe says.
Organizers expect the "Short Walk Home" Fundraiser to raise more than $40,000 for services and programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.