Cub Scouts from Calabasas delivered nearly 600 sleeping bags they collected for homeless veterans on Wednesday.
The Cub Scouts, part of Pack 333 from Calabasas, started their drive for sleeping bags after they organized a collection drive in October for disabled veterans, some of which were homeless. They found the number one request from veterans was for sleeping bags, but they only had five sleeping bags to give.
Inspired by their request, Den Leader Steven Rude and his 8-year-old son Aleksander spearheaded "Operation Sleeping Bag," hoping to collect 500 sleeping bags for homeless veterans.
Initially some people thought their goal was too high, Rude said, but most of the pack got involved and a group of Cub Scouts presented 594 sleeping bags to the Veterans Administration in Westwood Wednesday.
In addition to the sleeping bags, they collected about 400 notes from children living in local cities including Westwood, Calabasas and Valencia that will remind veterans that they did a good job and they are not forgotten, Rude said.
The notes also included the phone number for a suicide crisis hotline, because the Cub Scouts recognized that was an issue among homeless veterans after they "were told that many homeless veterans were depressed and wanted to die from all the bad things they saw," Rude said.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported over 1,200 homeless veterans still live on the streets in Los Angeles.
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In 2016, data from the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count indicated a 30 percent decrease in homeless veterans living in Los Angeles County, which included data from Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The report from LAHSA also indicated homelessness in Los Angeles County rose 5.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.
As word of Operation Sleeping Bag spread on social media, sleeping bags were donated from Calabasas and the greater Los Angeles area, but also from places around the world including Berlin, London, New York City and New Orleans.
"It's pretty amazing how it all got so big," Rude said.
At the presentation Wednesday, Rude's son Aleksander and another Cub Scout were awarded with a certificate from the Veteran's Administration, and he and four other boys also received a certificate of recognization from Mayor Eric Garcetti.