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 To Help the Homeless, San Diegans Will Take ‘A Short Walk Home’

By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO — For a third consecutive year, San Diegans are being invited to walk the talk when it comes to the issue of homelessness.

“A Short Walk Home,” organized by Father Joe’s Villages, will start at 8 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 3. Beginning and ending at Spanish Landing Park, the two-mile walk alongside San Diego Bay is intended to raise awareness about homelessness and the scarcity of affordable housing, while also raising funds to support the services that Father Joe’s Villages provides to the local homeless community.

There is no cost to participate in the event. Participants sign up either as individuals or as members of a team and collect sponsorship pledges prior to the event.

“Each dollar these teams raise will help us reach more individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages. “The people I meet at ‘A Short Walk Home’ give me hope because they are neighbors coming together to help those in need in our community.”

Father Joe’s Villages expects to have approximately 500 participants this year and has set a fundraising goal of $100,000. The organization says that it is currently on track to meet that goal.

In 2017, some 389 people participated in the walk, raising $42,000. Last year, there were 542 participants and the event brought in $80,000 for Father Joe’s Villages.

Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan, who will be leading a team of walkers for the third year in a row, described it as a “very colorful, very vibrant” event with participants carrying balloons, wearing team T-shirts, pushing their children in strollers or walking with their dogs.

“There’s a lot of joy,” said the bishop, who serves on the board of Father Joe’s Villages.

At the conclusion of the walk, in lieu of a finish line, participants will cross the threshold of an oversized door, which serves as a symbol of home.

Bishop Dolan noted the short distance involved — “It’s not even a 5K” — and joked that the walk is ideal “for lazy people like me.”

But breaking a sweat and burning calories aren’t the primary purpose of the event anyway. Rather, Bishop Dolan said, participants are motivated by a desire to do something to address a serious issue in their community and to help people “who happen to be living on the street, but ... are our brothers and sisters.”

In 2017, the 37-member “Team Bishop John” raised $3,930. The following year, the bishop led a 27-member team that raised $13,581.

Yvette Boodro of the Father Joe’s Villages Ladies Guild, which raises money to support homeless children at Father Joe’s Villages, also will be returning for a third year.

In both 2017 and 2018, she formed her own teams.

“I would guilt friends into joining me,” joked Boodro, who last year walked with a 10-member team that collectively raised about $2,500. But this year, there will be an official Ladies Guild team.

Boodro, who considers Father Joe’s Villages to be “an awesome organization” and decided in her retirement to support it as a volunteer, said she saw the inaugural “A Short Walk Home” as “a novelty” and was drawn by curiosity to see what it would be like.

“It was so uplifting,” she said, and “there was such camaraderie” that she decided to come back for more.

Father Patrick Mulcahy, who recently became pastor of Mary Star of the Sea Parish in La Jolla, was inspired to participate in last year’s walk after learning about Bishop Dolan’s plans to do so.

At the time, Father Mulcahy was serving as pastor of St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown San Diego, where homelessness is “not something you watch on the TV; it’s something you deal with on a daily basis.”

He assembled a team of about 40 parishioners. Together, he said, they raised more than $12,000 for Father Joe’s Villages.

“It was a big, community-building event,” Father Mulcahy said, “because people were doing something tangible to deal with something they knew was a real problem in San Diego.”

He said that “the simplicity of the event is very attractive.”

“It’s not a very complicated thing to participate in,” he said, and it’s a charitable cause whose beneficiaries are “people that are right in our midst.”

For more information, visit my.neighbor.org. Those who would like to support “A Short Walk Home” but are unable to be there in person can register as virtual walkers.

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