“Have you ever come across a homeless individual and felt totally uncomfortable?You see them and you know they are in need, but you are not sure what to do. You know that handing them money is not the best thing. But, you also see that they clearly have some needs. Their lips are chapped. They are hungry. They are thirsty. They are asking for help.How can you help?Here is a simple idea - blessing bags.
This was such an easy project. We are now going to keep a few “Blessing Bags” in our car so that when we do happen to see someone on the streets who is homeless, we can hand them a Blessing Bag. I first learned of these bags from my friend, Julie. I am using the picture of her bags (see above) because the ones we took were taken in horrible lighting and turned out really grainy and hard to see what is inside of them.If you’d like to make your own Blessing Bags, this is what you would need:Gallon size Ziplock bagsitems to go in the bags, such as:chap stickpackages of tissuestoothbrush and toothpastecombsoaptrail mixgranola barscrackerspack of gumband aidsmouthwashcoins (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)hand wipesyou could also put in a warm pair of socks, and maybe a Starbucks gift cardAssemble all the items in the bags, and maybe throw in a note of encouragement. Seal the bags and stow in your car for a moment of providence.This would be a great activity to do with some other families. Each family could bring one of the items going into the bags (ex: toothbrushes). Set up all the items around a table and walk around it with the ziplocks and fill the bags.”
This is a brilliant idea! You could also put in the numbers and addresses of local bulk-billing doctors, homeless help agencies/shelters, employment agencies, and the times and locations of free food vans around the town.
DON’T FORGET TAMPONS AND PADS THOSE ARE SUPER IMPORTANT
Socks, bus pass packs, and useful numbers are extremely helpful. Portland has a Pink Book, available if you know where to ask for it, with all kinds of aid numbers - from rent assistance to shelters to doctors and food sources. Most people who become homeless have no more idea than you or I what options are available to them, and how to get to them.
The Problems With Boots, as catalogued by their maker, two months after completing the fourth Boot.
1) Even though they’re legal, parking enforcement tends to target them, because they’re clearly ‘homeless.’ I would need to talk to the City Council and clarify this with them, and possibly fight a legal battle to get parking enforcement to apply the laws evenly.
2) It’s very difficult to stay in touch with the occupants, and therefore difficult to arrange for repairs or transfer of units. If I wanted to stay in touch properly, I’d have to do a city search weekly to find the various Boots out there and ask their occupants about problems. Although the library offers internet access, and some people have phones, very few actually try to stay in touch with me.
3) Community builds are both an asset and a flaw. They give a community stake in these creations, and educate and connect people, but they also depend on people’s generosity and belief that these will help.
4) The Boots themselves are heavy, unwieldy, and highly visible. While some people are strong and idealistic enough to deal with this combination, other, more vulnerable people are not. They prefer to be as hidden as possible. They would appreciate the amenities and the privacy offered, but are put off by the public relations job essentially foisted upon occupants. They want to get back into normal apartments and live normal lives.
5) Visibility is both an asset and a flaw. The Boots are meant to be attractive, and certainly they have gotten many positive responses. However, they also attract negative attention. They attract attention, period. Homelessness is a volatile issue right now, and being visible can be scary.
Lastly, I know better now what resources are available to homeless people. Shelters aren’t the only solution out there: rent help, rent share, and various other services strive to keep people’s ordinary lives running smoothly until they catch their stride again. I think these projects are deserving of more time, attention, and money. I can help by spreading the word about Transition Project, 100k Homes, EDAR, and roommate services.
Lots of people have been interested in the project. Parts of it are still very good ideas. I’m going to take some months and see if I can untangle them from the pieces that are not.
The two Boots that Sunnyside School raised money for can begin at any point. I could use some help getting building materials from Home Depot to Sunnyside playground. However!
I have some pretty hard news to share: I don’t think Bootstrap Homes is helping people enough or in the right ways. I still believe that community-sponsored, beautiful shelter can be a part of the solution to homelessness. I’m going to keep working on the design of the Bootstraps, to make them lighter and cheaper. However, I am not going to supervise the building of any Boots after the two that Sunnyside school raised money for.
If the students choose, the money raised at the fundraiser can go to projects that I feel do more good than the Bootstrap Project: EDAR, Transition Projects, Dignity Village, or 100KHomes.
The design will be freely available for modification and construction. I will continue to maintain this tumblr for the project. I will not be gathering funds for the construction of more, unless I come up with a design and business model that I think fixes the flaws that I’m seeing now.
The main ones are the impossibility of staying in touch with occupants to get feedback or maintain the Boots, and their weight, expense, and lack of maneuverability. I am certainly interested in suggestions.
Thank you all very much for your help and interest.
My apologies for the recent lack of posts. The two Boots at Sunnyside finished up well. They are now occupied and the kids raised enough money to build two more with all the trimmings. I am taking a well-earned vacation near Hermann, Missouri, where there is no internet unless I climb to the top of this hill to commune with the ticks. The hike itself is lovely, but the ticks have no concept of personal space!
I just wanted to share this little Oregonian event with you!
(note from Sarah Cloutier: Oh yes! We’re doing a fundraiser! And it’s going to have music! It’ll be awesome! You should come!)
11:15 I have sunscreen.
11:17 I have forgotten all about my sunscreen.
4:13 I regret that.
The two Boots at Sunnyside are coming together quite nicely. Since we decided to build a mini storage Boot as well, Jan’s son had to run out and get more materials, and some of the kids didn’t get to work as much as they wanted today. I’ll be going back there this evening, most likely, to work alone for a while. Right now, though, I’m sitting back with a glass of milk and the last of my chocolate, and seriously considering a nap.