by Rebecca LaPole
The holidays are over, but there is still much to be thankful for and more to give. The weather doesn’t suddenly get warmer now that December has passed, and there are many less fortunate who need our help. Homeless Gear has a family of six programs, which help support those in need with survival and get them back on their feet and into self-sufficiency.
Executive Director of Homeless Gear, David Rout, remembered a man who received a helping hand and, “What meant the most to him was being able to go home and just close the door. To have five minutes alone to just be.” We take so many things for granted, but just a small thing like having your own space truly makes a difference. The Sister Mary Alice Murphy Center for Hope is where Homeless Gear is located and it’s a one stop resource center for those at risk and those who are homeless.
“Launched in 2008, the founder of Homeless Gear found that we live in a really cold state, surprisingly, and there weren’t any agencies whose core vision was to distribute warm items,” David said, so Homeless Gear was created to ease that burden for agencies statewide. Some of these agencies include Disabled Resource Services, Volunteers of America, and many more. They also work in collaboration with the FoCo Cafe and the Fort Collins Rescue Mission to provide for those in need.
Wondering what you can do to help? David said, “Almost every agency has a ton of volunteer opportunities. We had about 1,400 volunteers last year and we needed every one of them in every minute they were here; sorting, collecting donations, working with clients. We focus on collecting individually-wrapped and readily-consumable foods that folks can eat on the go; the most preparation needed is to add hot water. We take granola bars, water, juice, ramen, oatmeal. We can take items for hygiene, outdoor gear, outerwear, etc.”
David told another story, “The real value of the Street Outreach program is connecting with people that are disconnected who aren’t going to come [to the center] because they don’t know about it, don’t want to come, have had a bad experience, or they have a mental or physical reason they can’t come. We came across a woman who hadn’t eaten in at least a week or two; she was very hungry, physically unable to go get food, relegated to her car with all her stuff in the back seat. She was left very much unable to do anything from a stroke, so we gave her food and a blanket. Our interns took the lead and would go see her everyday. She was very wary of receiving services, had bad experiences that had disillusioned her, so it took a few months of us just taking care of her basic needs. We eventually connected her to Adult Protective Services and filed a report with them. She went to a nursing home where she was for several months and is now in her own apartment. I don’t know if she ever would have received services if it wasn’t for our interns walking along with her until she was ready. To me, that story illustrates a lot; the power of Street Outreach, what some amazing interns and volunteers and the community coming together behind a cause can do. When a community wants to, it can do almost anything.”
To volunteer, contact David by phone at (970) 682-3193 or by email at David@HomelessGear.org. Learn more about their programs at HomelessGear.org.