Marines save lives one sleeping bag at a time

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 23:31:06-05

On a freezing Tuesday night in Painesville, members of the Sub Zero Mission are looking for people who don't always want to be found.

For hours, the group — armed with coats, hats, gloves and sleeping bags — scoured the woods, the streets and searched under bridges, looking for homeless to help.

Soon, they found Donald, a homeless man taking cover from the cold inside a local fast food restaurant.

"You haven't been taking your medicine," one volunteer said to him. "Do you need more hand warmers?" added another.

The nonprofit was founded in 2011 by Marines Al Raddatz and Del Bethel after they found a homeless man sleeping under a bridge and brought him a sleeping bag.

Since that one, they've handed out thousands.

Once the project grew, they made a startling discovery — one in five of the people they find sleeping on the streets are veterans.

"Sometimes it's choice and sometimes it's not," Raddatz said. "People are addicted to drugs and alcohol and they can't get into a shelter."

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, about 700 homeless people die from hypothermia each year.

For Raddatz, even one is unacceptable.

"No one in America should freeze to death," he said, citing the group's mission statement.

The Sub Zero Mission begins collecting items every fall. Around Thanksgiving and throughout the winter, a team of eight volunteers heads out two to three times a week — taking shelter to those without.

"You see people out there with nobody to help them, signs of frostbite," Raddatz said. "Last year, we found a body under a bridge. It breaks your heart."

Their path stretches from Ashtabula to Cleveland and down south to Summit County. They also take several trips out of state each year to Pittsburgh, Detroit and Buffalo.


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