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Formerly homeless man volunteers time helping those at previous shelter

National Volunteer Week is from April 21-27, 2024.
Posted at 11:23 PM, Apr 24, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Volunteers are working away at PATH’s Connections interim housing in downtown San Diego and getting ready to make dinner for those staying at the shelter.

“At the end of the day, these are just people that are trying to find a meal and [a] safe place to sleep. Really at the end the day, that’s what it comes down to,” PATH volunteer Patrick Gilligan said.

Gilligan knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter. He became homeless after losing his job in 2022.

“...Your apartment comes up for lease again, and you can’t quite afford the old one that you had," Gilligan said. "And then the car- I can’t afford that anymore. I fell through all of the gates. I did some couch surfing for a while."

This lasted five months for the U.S. Marine Corps veteran until Gilligan told ABC 10News he went to the VA.

“Which I thank God for because they found me PATH. They found me a way forward. They got me health care, and I was able to find my way out,” Gilligan said.

Gilligan lived at PATH’s Connections, a City of San Diego-funded shelter, from September until this January, when he got his place downtown after working with PATH’s staff.

He now regularly volunteers at the shelter with people like Traci Knight- who became friends with Gilligan when he was a resident- prepping and serving meals.

“It’s very nice to see somebody who’s on one side and then go to the other side. And it’s almost like a role model lead for others to see him now in this act, and hopefully, they will want to give back as well,” Knight said.

Even though it’s National Volunteer Week, PATH and Gilligan said the need to help the unhoused is year-round.

“We have a donation that always needs volunteers to help sort through. We were also looking for folks to help assemble outreach kits,” Tyler Renner of PATH said.

Renner said this helps outreach teams build rapport and trust with those on the streets.

“If you’re on the other side of that and you’re really kind of an arm’s length away from all of this, understand you can make a difference by volunteering,” Gilligan said.