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Vietnamese Community Repays Kindness by Aiding the Homeless

Times Staff Writer

More than 300 homeless people in Santa Ana on Sunday were fed egg rolls, rice and coffee, then given new sleeping bags.The gesture, in its 10th year, was organized by Khoi Vu, the editor of Ngay Mai magazine, a free Vietnamese-language publication distributed in Little Saigon.

“We did this because the Vietnamese refugee community has received a lot of good things from the United States,” he said. Vu has helped feed hundreds of homeless people in Cypress, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. Through appeals in his magazine and on Vietnamese-language radio, he gets donations and volunteers to help with food, sleeping bags and other items the homeless need.

Le Quy An, a Westminster business owner, donated 23 sleeping bags and his time on Sunday.

“In my country of Vietnam we always have been fighting,” An said. “During the wars, we’ve never had enough, so we understand the homeless.”

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Hien Nguyen, 50, a Tustin goldsmith, donated two sleeping bags after hearing Vu’s radio appeal and was at the Sunday event.

“It was a call for the Vietnamese community to help,” Nguyen said, “and when I heard it, the weather was turning really cold and I decided to help.”

Nguyen brought Vina, his 9-year-old daughter.

Little Saigon, comprising parts of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Westminster, has the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam.

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“This is a very, very big deal for us,” said Jacqueline Phan, 62, of Westminster.

Vu, a self-described spiritual healer not affiliated with any religious group, also gave a short homily to those who congregated on Ross Street near the county’s government buildings.

“I don’t want to see you here next year. I hope that you will find jobs and be off the streets,” Vu said.

For Debbie Ellis, 52, a single homeless woman, the sleeping bag will help her cope with temperatures recently in the low 40s.

Ellis said she had been living on the streets since July after losing her job when she got hurt while providing in-home nursing care. “I lost my apartment. I never thought that I would ever be out here homeless,” she said.

Joe Gomez, 34, said he was thankful to the Vietnamese community for the food.

Gomez, who sleeps in his car, had a message for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Tell him to build more shelters,” he said. “We don’t need more shopping malls, we need shelters.”

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Edwin Yates said he hadn’t been able to work since he injured himself on the job at a circus two months ago.

For now he has a motel room, but may not be able to keep it much longer.

“I’m waiting for workmen’s comp to kick in. But I’ve got a motel in Anaheim that I can stay at for another week. After that I might use this,” Yates said, holding up a new sleeping bag.


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