by Daniel Keeran
This Christmas, you can help fulfull the wishes of a homeless person. At homelesspartners, read the stories and modest Christmas wishes of the individuals who will be spending their Christmas holidays at a shelter. Through the website, you can choose to send a personal gift or a caring message. Only the first name and ID number of the individual is provided to protect their anonymity. You may choose to send a gift online or deliver it to the reception desk at the shelter. Shelter addresses are provided on the website.
Across Europe and North America, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people, especially in recent years in Vancouver and Victoria in BC. A growing body of information also indicates our current approach to homelessness has led to an inefficient use of public resources; it costs more to leave people homeless than to provide them with permanent housing and support services.
Who are these people we pass on the street, begging for food and money, sleeping in doorways and parks and pushing grocery carts full of containers and stuff from garbage bins?
Homeless people are men and women who have lost their home and perhaps their family. Each person has a real life story with poignant reasons for their homelessness. They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles. No one deserves to suffer as the homeless do – often beaten, robbed, diseased and dying on the street.
Sometimes, they are recently homeless. Others have lived on and off the street and in shelters for many years. It’s not uncommon for someone to prefer the street to a bedbug infested single room occupancy hotel room where they are at risk of being assaulted. For many, this is worse than sleeping on the street and having the shoes stolen off their feet and all their personal possessions taken, including photos of loved ones and their personal identification, which makes it difficult or impossible to register for many services like welfare. There is an urgent need for some kind of lockers or secure place they can keep their belongings.
Many of the homeless suffer from mental illness. This can lead to drug addiction as they try to help themselves feel better. Although they may sometimes look able bodied, mental illness is not always outwardly apparent and it prevents people from holding down a job, as much as a physical handicap prevents a wheelchair-bound person from walking.
What do homeless people need?
One of the most pervasive problems with the homeless is “street feet.” Their shoes and socks become wet for long periods of time and they are unable to find a warm, dry place where they can stay inside long enough for them to dry out. This creates sores, pain and infection. They need waterproof footwear and warm dry socks.
Those who are capable of working, especially in the building trades are not able to work because they have no tools, tool belt or steel-toe work boots. These can be donated new or used as long as they are in sturdy and reusable condition.
Many homeless people are talented artists, musicians and writers. By gifting art supplies like canvasses, acrylic paints, brushes, etc, they can be afforded the tools to create works of art.
If they were your family members, regardless of their circumstances or choices, you would want them to know you care. We believe everyone is our family member and these people are in trouble.
The most important thing a homeless person needs is to know that you care: a smile as you pass by, saying hello or a small gift or caring message at Christmas time.
Daniel Keeran, along with Jennie Keeran, is the co-founder of homelesspartners.com