Yesterday I took a long walk into a wooded area where many homeless youth “camp out”. Although it’s quiet and secluded, it’s also a very wet area during the Pacific Northwest fall and winter seasons. My ten dollar shoes were soon caked with mud as I followed a trail as far back as I could and the first thing I noticed were clothes and thoroughly drenched sleeping bags hanging from branches. Now I don’t have much money but I took the kids to a nearby laundromat to wash and dry their few belongings. It may not seem like a big deal but when you live outside, it’s hard to keep warm when your things are soaking wet and you have no access to heat.
When I got back to my mini-van, I saw new homeless people I haven’t seen before…adults with small kids. They had no vehicle and they had no tent. Whenever this happens, homeless youth “double up” in their small tents the best they can. Even scarier are the new senior citizens I’ve noticed in the area. Most of them live out of their vehicles or small RV’s and what worries me the most about them is the fact that most of them have health problems that will only get worse the longer they live this way.
Instead of sinking into despair at the growing number of homeless people showing up without access to immediate shelter, I decided to collect tents, new or used. I look for folks willing to donate sleeping bags, warm coats and camping gear they no longer use. Outside of collecting used items, my only other option is to ask folks for monetary donations to be able to buy items from thrift stores, garage sales, discount shops and yes, military supply stores. If you’re reading this blog, please make a donation if you can. Sometimes this is easier than boxing up items and then paying high shipping costs. Another way to get gear is to send gift cards to places like Target where new camping gear is relatively inexpensive.
To those of you who live in and around the Seattle area, if you have any tents, tarps (brown, green or camouflage only please!), sleeping bags, camping gear, flashlights, body/hand/foot warmers, thermal underwear, thermal socks and warm winter jackets or gently used hiking boots that you’d like to donate, please contact me via email (email@example.com) to arrange a meeting place to pick those items up. That being said, please do not send me items that aren’t on the priority list as these homeless youth are not a “dump” for unwanted items I may have to spend gas on to donate to a local thrift store or trash bin. For those of you concerned about fraud, I keep all receipts for items purchased for the homeless and will be posting them accordingly.
Obviously the homeless need permanent housing but until Section 8 is reopened to apply for in my state along with enough vouchers to serve the real numbers of homeless people out here, what I’m doing will always be a band-aid effort on a gushing wound. So why do I go out of my way to help homeless people when I’m homeless myself? It’s simple; every day out here without adequate shelter, health care or food is another day closer to death. I don’t know about you but that’s what I think about every time I see a homeless person sleeping in an alley or under a bridge with nothing but a blanket wrapped around them.
As for those of you who donated funds and your spare tents, sleeping bags, coats, blankets, tarps, boots, socks and other items; thank you. You may never meet the folks I gave your stuff to but you may have just saved their lives and that my friends…….is worth more than any man made treasure.