You should give a damn, but I understand why you might become complacent about our homeless neighbors during the warmer months and therefore, don’t.
True, we don’t see people standing in doorways shivering and obviously suffering like we did in February. True, our homeless neighbors seem to fit in a little easier this time of year–wearing shorts, t-shirts and just hanging out at the park–the gray and tan layers of outerwear are gone. True, there isn’t the obvious, stark distinction between those of us who are fortunate enough to live indoors and those that don’t, but that doesn’t mean that the suffering has disappeared, or in any other way diminished. The summer months bring on different types of needs and suffering.
Atlanta is one of the world’s most beautiful cities in the Spring. Most of us watch the summer blooms from the safe harbor of closed windows to spare us from the onslaught of pollen and the allergies that accompany the blooms. We retreat indoors to avoid the suffering, and if it gets to be too much, we just dose up on Claritin, or Xertic and we get immediate relief.
Well, suppose you lived outside? Suppose you lived outside all the time. All the time outside. In the elements. Every minute of the day and night. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day. Week. And. Month. And you too have allergies, but you don’t have the $13 bucks for the meds. Then what? You suffer. No kleenex? Use your shirt. Yeah, it’ll look snotty and dirty after a while, but you can always go buy another shirt. Whoops. No you can’t. You’re homeless, and now you’re starting to look homeless. Dirty, gray, homeless. With a sinus headache, a runny nose, watery eyes, dirty hair, chapped lips, dry cracked skin, sore feet, a hungry belly and no home. Ahhhhhhh…..glorious springtime.
And those feet. God bless homeless feet. Man, they take a beating. It’s hot. Feet sweat. Sweat causes blisters, foot fungus and skin disease, and unfortunatley, our homeless friends have to use these abused feet to walk around on. Gotta keep moving. Gotta keep moving on damaged feet. Just change shoes and socks and give those dogs a rest, right? No, it’s never as easy on the streets as we’d like to think. Most homeless only have one pair of shoes–usually worn out and the wrong size– and one pair of socks. The average useful lifespan of a pair of socks on the street is about 3 weeks before they start to do more harm than good. Can you imagine wearing the same socks for 3 weeks!? I’ve personally given out socks to people that haven’t had a fresh pair in 4-5 months. Their feet are damaged, and every time it rains, they get worse–and so do their shoes and socks.
What about clothing? At least there’s free clothing right? Not nearly as much as in the cold months. White-guilt is at it’s peak in the winter months, so donations are up. In the warmer seasons, clothing and other desperatetly needed items are on sale at a garage sale near you on Saturdays. T-shirts that would normally be given away or used to wash cars go on sale for $1 each. It’s ironic the how much value is attached to what most of us would normally discard when a garage sale enters the picture. Suddenly, everything has value.
What about simple things like chap-stick, suntan lotion, moisturizer, razors, soap, shampoo? Nope. Unless you or the Walgreen’s Fairy are donating these items, then our homeless neighbors will just have to do without. What about the women? What about feminine hygeine products? ‘Fraid not. Sorry girls, you’re out of luck. A couple of napkins or some toilet paper from Chevron will have to do this month. Truly sorry.
I met a girl a couple of days ago. She was sitting on the sidewalk on Peachtree St. Crying. Alone. Suffering. Pure tradgedy. She was young, white, bruised, high on crack and had just been beaten and raped the night before. She lives on the streets. She thought it would be safe to sleep outside since it was nice out. Brutal. My God, we must do something. Anything. We just simply cannot sit idly by and let this happen. We cannot do nothing in good conscience. Hundreds of people walked past her. She was invisible to them. All she wanted at that moment was some relief. We can provide at least some relief, if only on a base level. It matters. It counts.
What can you do? Give, and more importantly this time of year, know what to give and to whom. Give t-shirts, shorts, shoes, socks. Give toiletries, underwear, razors and lotion. Give away all those little shampoos and lotions that you got from hotels and will never really use. Give money to organizations that help those most at risk who are living on the margins just trying to survive the day. Save your canned goods. There are some 33 places to get a free meal in Atlanta. Our homeless are not hungry.
Here are two places where your donations and support will immediately and directly go to those in need. Church on the Street, and Open Door Community. If you’re not comfortable doing that, then reach for your wallet and hit the donate button on this web-site. I give every penny I raise on this site to these organizations. If you have stuff and you don’t know what to do with it, contact me and I’ll arrange to have it picked up.
Give a damn. It doesn’t hurt at all.