I didn’t grow up in a family that had causes. I was taught from an early age that you took care of yourself first, and then you helped others when and where you could. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that helping others was taking care of myself. Once I realized I could do more, a simple drive around Phoenix told me just where I needed to jump in. Phoenix experiences a booming homeless population due to our temperate winters, and there were thousands of people who needed my help.
I work with several non-profit organization in Phoenix, Arizona that assist people experiencing homelessness. Many of those non-profits are a mixture of groups that provide services like meals on Sunday and a few nights a week or large outreach events once a month on Saturdays or Sundays.
One such group called Hope 4 Phoenix began providing meals for homeless individuals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Using leftovers from those meal, they started distributing sandwiches to people struggling with homelessness in downtown Phoenix popular areas for homeless to frequent. Phoenix homeless advocate Mike Atanasio saw the need to expand the meal service to a full 7 nights-a-week. He coordinated local food banks to provide ingredients for soup (in the winter) and items for sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly for the yummy win!).
Along Came BC
Mike handles several dozen outreach projects and events for the Arizona Friends of Homeless network. His advocacy is full time – morning, noon and night, including the middle of the night at times. When he decided to tackle the task of expanding the meal service to 7 nights-a-week, I asked to participate. And decided to make it a “thing.” Because someone in marketing doesn’t know how to do anything without first figuring out how to brand it, even a soft brand.
Do you know that most shelters, soup kitchens, and/or churches in the greater Phoenix metro area serve their final daily meal around 6-7 pm and don’t serve breakfast the following day until 8 am? That is the span of approximately 14 hours in which people experiencing homelessness in Phoenix must go without food.
The #humanKINDness Project is intended to provide a basic meal (soup and a sandwich), perhaps a warm blanket during the cold season, to those in need on the streets and in the parks of downtown Phoenix. However as I went out each week, the overwhelming cry for more items, such as hygiene, towels, and socks, became louder and louder. I put out the call and people responded with an abundance of compassion and supplies.
Coordinating donation efforts from local, statewide and even multi-state resources, The #humanKINDness Project has grown from providing a single cup of soup, a sandwich, and a blanket to providing a cup of soup with dipping bread; a full sack lunch with peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, a snack item, fruit, and a piece of candy; a beverage; and assorted hygiene and feminine hygiene products, as well as socks, shoes, clothing, and towels and washcloths (all as donated). If you are interested in donating, please visit our Amazon Wishlist. All items can be directly shipped to our initiative by choosing the preloaded shipping address.
But what’s more are the changes in the faces of the people we see every week. Some few of them eyed us warily when we first started. Now we’re on a first name basis with many, chatting weekly about their lives. Instead of woes and sadness, these people tell us of prospects and hopes; they smile instead of grimacing.
I know what I do weekly isn’t a solution to homelessness. I know it isn’t sustainable in the long term and it is only one small local effort to help. But in a world where people often get too wrapped up in the big picture, it’s enough for me to take a closer, hands-on approach to dealing with a topic that is important to me. 1) it makes me feel good, and 2) it helps my community.
Who knows? In time my efforts might be duplicated in other areas. Or maybe someone will come up with a better idea of helping. In the mean time, I’ll keep driving my truck around and handing out #humanKINDness among other necessities. To learn about our latest efforts, follow up with our latest post here.
To find out how you can volunteer to help people experiencing homelessness in your area, click here.
BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book
of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, and uses her celebrity to advocate for others.