SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Trying to fix San Diego's homeless problem during a pandemic and economic uncertainty is a monumental task. There are still thousands in need of housing, and it's especially tough for over 900 of those individuals under the age of 24.
Several organizations exist to support them, but only one will Stand Up For Kids. That's why we chose Terilyn Burg as our ABC 10News Leadership Award Winner for March.
When the pandemic hit, there was a rush to house 8,000 homeless San Diegans to prevent the virus from spreading. But that did not mean the work of homeless outreach organizations was finished.
"Stand Up for Kids was still open. We had not shut down," says Burg, who serves as Executive Director of the non-profit organization. "And the word passed rather rapidly when they found out we were still there for them."
Burg has been there for young adults and homeless kids for 31 years. Stand Up for Kids is a national organization with 18 chapters, but its first chapter was created right here in San Diego in 1990. It was Burg who helped launch the program. So, what's changed in three decades?
"More kids are on the streets now than there were back then," says Burg. "More issues of family abuse and things like that that cause kids to feel safer on the streets than they were in their homes."
I first met Burg almost 15 years ago, researching a story on homeless youth. A lot has changed since 2006, but her exhausting work remains the same. She still operates Stand Up for Kids with her volunteers and generous sponsors six nights a week for homeless kids and young adults. They provide donated clothing, snacks, backpacks for school, toiletries, you name it—anything the kids need to get through a night on the streets.
"To know that there is a place that for several hours a night they can be safe, to take a shower, get clothes, have an indoor bathroom," says Burg.
After 31 years, you might think Burg has run the race long enough. But in her mind, she's only getting started. Why?
"Because there are kids on the streets. Because I'm a mom. Because I love 'em," says Burg with a smile.