SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The San Diego Rescue Mission is making sure people who are homeless or in need have a warm meal this Christmas.
Saturday, the organization served around 800 people during its annual Christmas Outreach Dinner.
"If you live in San Diego, everybody knows there's more people living on the streets than ever before," said Donnie Dee, President and CEO of San Diego Rescue Mission.
For over 20 years, the organization has served the homeless community a hearty Christmas meal.
People were also provided with essential items like blankets and hats to keep warm.
A team of healthcare professionals was also on-site for those in need of medical attention.
"It's really just an opportunity for us to encourage them in the state they're in and build a relationship," said Dee.
Dee said they've had to change how they held the dinner from years past due to the pandemic. Instead of a sit-down dinner inside the building, volunteers handed out the meals in to-go boxes.
Dee said for some people in line, the pandemic is the root of their hardship. But for others like Guy Wehner, it's been decades of struggle.
"It's literally since 2001 until now... I've had nothing but hardship," said Wehner.
Wehner said this time of year is especially hard for him. The event is one of the few times a year he gets a decent meal.
But he said it's organizations like San Diego Rescue Mission and his service dog, Ladybug, that brighten his spirits.
"Just that simple gesture helps. Even if it's small, it helps," said Wehner.
Along with providing a meal, Dee said the organization tries to connect people with programs that may help get them off the streets.
"Through job training, drug and alcohol recovery, through spiritual classes, through anger management classes, through whatever they need to address the issues of their heart," said Dee.
Dee believes rehabilitation is one of the keys to solving homelessness.
"I hope that there's a day when there's not a line, I hope there's a day when we're not doing an outreach meal," said Dee.
The organization also holds an outreach dinner on Thanksgiving and Easter.
The Rescue Mission is still in need of donations and is asking for new or gently used warm blankets, solid-color hoodies (med-XXL), and beanies to be dropped off at their facility on Elm Street.