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.