This week I attended a conference about homelessness in Arizona. The statistics are arguable, depending on the source, but the reality is our state faces a huge, transient wave of folks in need this time of year. They come from colder areas because one can survive outside in Phoenix, even if it is an incredibly hard existence.
The majority of these folks are men. Many are veterans. Many have substance abuse or serious mental illness or both. Many have been arrested at some point for a crime of survivial — loitering, camping within city limits, food theft.
There are groups state-wide working to help ease the physical and health needs of the homeless. Some provide a temporary shelter, while others do outreach deep into the woods of our state and national parks, looking for those who have removed themselves to the furthest edges of society.
There is a group in northern Arizona that does some pretty amazing work with homeless folks in Coconino and Yavapi counties. They drive and hike and trek with a “sixth sense” into the woods, looking for those who may need water. Or food. Or maybe even just a little company. With time, they are often able to coax these folks into behavioral health programs and care. Last year, they were able to find permanent housing options for more than 70, again — many of whom are veterans.
Those who are in the Verde Valley area may swing by The Loft; a safe place for a shower, laundry, a warm meal, a change of clothes and even some time online, if they care to check in with friends and family. One area of great need for The Loft are hygiene kits. These are distributed to those who come in, and for those who remain living outside – in the forest or otherwise. The kit doesn’t have to include much, but can provide considerable relief and comfort to someone without a home.
This is where I need your help. Would you join me in making a kit or two? You could sew a fabric pouch, or place it in a Ziplock. You could add a note of encouragement, or make it anonymous. You could give these in lieu of holiday gifts, or in addition. You, and me, and anyone else willing to help out and pitch in about $10 could make a serious difference for those living on the edge.
We aren’t going to solve homelessness by putting together these bags, but we will provide a bit of joy and kindness. That’s enough.
A kit may have:
- a pair of socks
Anything else you’d like to include would be wonderful. We are making a commitment to this project as a family and will deliver the supplies to northern Arizona and to veteran homeless outreach in the metro area, during the holidays.
I know I’ve asked you before for this type of help, and you’ve responded so generously. Together, we can provide a bit of kindness and comfort to those in need. With the winter months approaching, those needs are greater than ever. Leave a comment if you are in, and we’ll chat. And thank you!