Socks and drinks were handed out by a volunteer from Healers Without Borders. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
Socks and drinks were handed out by a volunteer from Healers Without Borders. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

Brad Reiss, the founder of Healers Without Borders, had some advice for the volunteers showing up at Wednesday’s Thanksgiving giveaway: “Don’t just drop the food and leave. We want to engage with people. We want them to know our names, and we’re here to offer help.” 

Reiss explaining what is included in the essential kit to other volunteers. Photo by Chuqin Jiang,

During the two-hour giveaway in the Mission, volunteers handed out 100 sandwiches, chips and drinks, as well as socks and clothes. Most of the supplies that landed at three sites were ordered by donors from the Amazon wish list provided by Healers Without Borders. Others were donated by volunteers and shops like Teani’s Deli.

At noon, Reiss, five members of his organization, and other volunteers carried out sandwich boxes and hygiene kits from their trucks. They met behind the Best Buy at Harrison and Alameda streets where, nearby, at least 20 tents had been pitched.

“Happy Thanksgiving! We bring some sandwiches for lunch and other stuff,” shouted volunteers when passing by the tents. Some people poked their heads out and took the food. Those who needed clothes came out to the trolly to pick their own sizes and styles. Almost everyone expressed their thanks and returned the holiday wishes.

  • Volunteers are handing out essentials to homeless. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
  • A hundred sandwiches, chips and drinks were handed out. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
  • Phyllis Pettus, the advisor of HWB, and a volunteer, are talking with a homeless. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.
  • A hand reaching out to take the drink. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

Reiss started the monthly giveaway in July, and will organize more in the coming holiday season, he said. He is thinking about doing a family-friendly giveaway event after Christmas, gathering 15 8- to 16-year-old kids with their parents.

There were more people in need than Reiss thought. He said they usually hand out 60 sandwiches at the first site. But almost 85 sandwiches were gone after the first stop.

Reiss then drove to two other smaller sites around Franklin Square. Homeless residents camping far from the main encampments are less likely to get food, said Reiss, and they are hungry, too. That seemed to be the case.

One man tore the wrapping paper from his sandwich as soon as a volunteer handed it to him. A woman, in all black and barefoot, kept saying, “thank you” after taking a bag of second-hand clothes. 

Reiss gave a bag full of clothes to the woman. Photo by Chuqin Jiang.

A middle-aged man took out his guitar from the camp when volunteers were about to leave. “Do you happen to have a guitar string to replace?” He strummed his guitar with two broken strings, watching volunteer cars leave with a smile.

Socks and blankets are the most requested items. Reiss didn’t realize the importance of them until he first started passing them out to homeless people in the Tenderloin. Such items are needed but infrequently donated, he said. That’s why he listed socks in the donation wish list and carried some to each distribution event.

He told Mission Local in July that his rehab experience made him determined to help others, to “soften the blow” by showing up at where less fortunate people need help.

Now, his work is recognized by more people. Healers Without Borders just won the Warriors Impact Award. The organization got twelve tickets for the Warriors game on Wednesday night and received the awards during halftime at the Chase center. 

Brad Reiss, the founder of Healers Without Borders, being honored on the court at a Warriors basketball game.
Reiss was awarded during the Warriors game on Wednesday night. Photo provided by HWB.

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INTERN DATA REPORTER. Chuqin has two degrees in data journalism and she is passionate about making data more accessible to readers. Before arriving in the Mission, she covered small business and migratory birds in New York City while learning to code and design at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She loves coastal cities, including SF and her hometown Ningbo.

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  1. I’d appreciate if this story could become a long-term project and looking forward to see the homeless’ situations next time.

      1. Thats because the City has steadfastly refused to meet the needs of the homeless as well of the needs of the housed on whose streets the homeless camp. Under successive administrations beginning with Feinstein the City has fluctuated between “benign neglect” and “malign neglect” pitting one set of residents against another and leaving the streets piled with garbage. Three years ago Breed and Brown and Newsom campaigned against Prop C flatly stating the City would do nothing with the money raised. And for perhaps the only time during her tenure, Breed has been true to her word

        1. It’s because the numbers of vagrants cannot not be controlled. They are literally unlimited and we already house 22,000 or so vagrants, but it’s not enough and never will be as long as vagrants are welcomed with open arms. Progressives ruin cities.