Teenagers turn plastic bags into sleeping mats for San Antonio’s homeless

SAN ANTONIO – An act of kindness shaped by a simple grocery bag.

A group of teenagers have a new purpose for the plastic bags so many of us bring home from the store. The organization Teens Give Back SATX is making used grocery bags into sleeping mats for San Antonio’s unsheltered residents.

“We take for granted having a bed to go home to at night after a long day of work or school and the comfort that brings us,” said Addie Roberts with Teens Give Back SATX.

Roberts took matters, or plastic bags, into her own hands to make a difference.

“When we hand those over to the clients we work with, again, it’s invaluable; it provides warmth, it provides the ability to stay dry to stay away from bugs, and all of that matters for someone sleeping unsheltered outside,” said Rex Brien, VP of Emergency service for SAMMinistries.

Rex Brien with SAMMinistries explains in some temperatures, the mats can save lives by keeping people off the ground.

The process of making a sleeping mat out of plastic bags requires patience, Roberts tells us. She says a single mat takes about 700-900 bags and 15-20 hours to make. The steps to get the job done are second nature for those working with Teens Give Back SATX, but they admit it did take some practice.

“I didn’t really see it at first, I didn’t really see it for the first all of the steps until it was made, but once it was made, I thought it was really cool,” said Joseph Duperier with Teens Give Back SATX.

The group says over the past year, they made about 50 mats with the help of neighborhood bag drives, but a recent partnership with H-E-B gave them 8,000 bags, allowing them to make 10 mats in the last month.

“It’s just a really nice feeling, like even if you’re really tired, it’s like, it’s okay, I did something good,” Valentina Mendible with Teens Give Back SATX.

Now, they hope to keep their momentum going by spreading awareness of what they do and adding more volunteers.

About the Authors

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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