Creative Solutions

We often forget people and situations that need our attention. It is because our lives are complete and we lack for little. This is not the case with the homeless and people who experience an extreme level of poverty. Thus it is a welcome sight to see a homeless help drive. It shows that there are people who care. If enough do similar actions we will help resolve the problem but it will take considerable time. I praise those who organize fundraising events to donate money to those in need. I also laud those who give of their time and money to help on their own. We need such drives to spread like wild fire around the country. In the long run, a lot of little things can add up to a lot. We need a national program to make it work. Communities can join hands in the name of stopping homelessness which exists in every corner of the United States and no doubt abroad. It will take a ring leader who is in political office. The best resolution would have it come from the President who takes it on as a cause.

Local help drives are frequent in my area and I support them all. I look to see what is happening and what is donated. During the last fundraiser/drive someone donated a group of pool floats for adults. I believe it was a pool supply company and they had extras on hand. These are the inflated items that are used to relax on the water and they can be the size of an average adult. The organizer of the drive asked me what on earth he could do with these objects. I suppose we could sell them and use the money for something useful he said. What do you think? Since I was asked, I offered my opinion. I thought about it for a while and came up with the idea of using these comfortable inflatables as temporary beds in shelters. He said, oh that’s a creative solution. They would have more value than the little money we would make selling them.

He knew that shelters are always short of beds and the number of people who stay in them varies greatly. These floats could be pulled out at the last minute and inflated for quick use. No one would be turned away or have to sleep on a park bench or the sidewalk. Maybe every time we have a help drive we could make a wish list of items to donate that could be of some use in imaginable ways. I am thinking of thermoses, utensils, towels, sheets and bed covers, soap and toothpaste, and more. Whatever a human being needs to live would be appropriate. If people don’t willingly donate, we can ask the manufacturing companies. They are always game, but we forget to ask. Food products are typical items we seek as well. Canned good drives are conducted by schools and churches so let’s keep them going.

Thinking Outside the Box

Sue was a middle aged woman I met in a homeless camp near the beach. The denizens of this makeshift place liked to be near boardwalks so they had access to inexpensive food, free outdoor shower facilities, and handouts from locals. The beach is ideal in the summer because of the moderate temperature but Sue complained that she had to move elsewhere in the winter for better weather protection. Her group traveled sometimes as a pack so they could look after one another and make sure everyone was safe from random vandalism and harm. Often, the homeless like to be near shelters in the off season so they have a place to stay and grab a hot meal. Most of the time they prefer their independence and the freedom allowed by places such as the beach. There are bathrooms nearby, access to water fountains, and a general pleasant environment for striking up a temporary home. In the summer, a blanket or tarp often is enough to ward off the occasional rain. The temperatures don’t dip that much at night. I do worry about them when fall approaches and winter threatens.

You can only pile on so many blankets and plastic covers. You see the debris of all kinds of things that are cast off by society. The homeless make use of everything. They are lucky to get a decent mattress and something resembling a tent. One thing I thought of in this regard would be to get some beach tents donated to help supplement would these people can find in scavenging the garbage. As a result I approached a local rental shop and asked for some of the older, used items as a giveaway. A tent is indeed a luxury in any shantytown. People make them with cardboard boxes and newspapers but they are not long lasting and cannot withstand the elements. Beach tents are made of canvas and are perfectly suitable substitutes. They would make perfect temporary homes, however modest and imperfect. If they are in good condition, they can be folded up and moved to other locations.

Beach tents are just a couple of feet in diameter for the most part, but they come in all sizes. The question if, if donated, how would these tents be fairly distributed. How would you prevent theft or misappropriation? I guess these are peripheral problems. The point is to get the shelter in the first place and make sure it is put to good use. These tents are seen everywhere in beach towns along the shore, but they disappear at night when the sunbathers make their exit to go back home. The problem is that you need many of them to cover the number of homeless denizens and it isn’t easy to procure them in volume, except maybe at the end of the summer season when they are no longer needed. When it comes to the homeless, you have to be practical and creative as you address basic living needs of these nomad residents.

Beating the Heat

Living on the streets is unimaginable. Those who care pretend to know, but we don’t really. You can witness it, read or hear about it, and condemn it, but it isn’t the same as experiencing the worst that life has to offer. Being homeless is to face despair and deprivation on the basest level. It is to live less than a half-life that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy.

Volunteers and city officials work hard to ameliorate the prevailing conditions as best they can, but it is unending. Nevertheless, you plug onward. Sometimes they can’t make more than a dent in progress, which becomes more than frustrating. They toil to provide food and clean water, some shelter and other basics for personal use. It is particularly bad during harsh weather. That can mean extreme and icy cold or by contrast blistering heat. Neither is tolerable while you are on the street and exposed to the elements, such as they may be.

An example of the kind of attention it takes to keep the homeless afloat on a subsistence level is to bring much-needed supplies appropriate to the time of year. These are usually donated by kindly souls or are purchased by charitable organizations. One such item that seemed to make a real difference recently was a small portable icemaker. It was so hot that week and brows were literally pouring with sweat. Losing water is dangerous, as you know, and most of the time you can replenish it with bottled water if available. But you also have to address body temperature. The homeless wear whatever clothing is on hand, and it is not always lightweight in summer or heavy and concealing in winter. Everything happens at random it seems on the street.

The icemaker was such a real godsend. People were surprised by the gesture and then openly thankful. They shared it and made sure that all in the “camp” had some ice through the day. It was a wonderful respite for the high temperatures. Volunteers continued to circulate it for a couple of days until the end of the heatwave. It provided a kind of relief that was unimaginable in that situation. Only a fan would have been the equivalent and there was no place to plug one or more in. The icemaker was battery operated, portable, and therefore extremely utile.

Those who don’t live near the homeless have no idea of the suffering that goes on. They assume it is always a matter of lack of food, but there is so much more to making life bearable. Food is fortunately available at public shelters, and we have all encountered those who beg in better neighborhoods for a handout. Continued efforts, however, have to be made to supply the homeless with other necessities of life. So if you have a working portable icemaker, and can spare the ice for your evening round of drinks, by all means donated it to a very worthy cause. We really take things for granted in our affluent society; but now it is time to give back.