Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How A 21-Year-Old Design Student's Sleeping-Bag Coat Could Break The Cycle Of Homelessness | Fast Company

Ever go to a Boston Celtics game in the dead of winter, driving through a blizzard to get there, heat blasting, drinking a hot chocolate or having some imbibes to warm you up a little bit having a good time? Then you get into the city, starting heading into the parking garage because why pay $15 to park and have to shovel out your car and then clean it off when it's only $5 more to be in a semi-heated, nice building thats next to the Boston Garden and you can walk to and from the game with all the other fans even. Before the game you get to get outta the snow if your early and go to a bar to play some pool/have a little food with the friends, it down around 0 degrees and that's during the day so by the time the games out and your heading to car just the 3 minute walk and your ears are red and so cold their numb, lips hurt, your face feels like it's burning when you turn the car heat one but in a matter of 5-10 minutes your nice and warm on your way to your house where it's a warm 70 inside and your comforter is ready with your wife keeping the even warmer. 

Ok now let's think about someone that's homeless right now in that same situation minus the money for that hot chocolate you had to keep your hands warm, or the nice warm clothing you wore to walk from the car to bar/game/back car. For your big trek outside you've got a t-shirt, long sleeve, sweatshirt and then a coat on top, then a hat on your head, maybe a scarf+gloves even(not something I wear but it's pretty common in boston).
I bet from that parking garage to the door is maybe a 150 yard walk. 

Now I talk about all of this because there is a homeless man that sleeps in the doorway of this building that is either closed or unoccupied and it has been off and on for the past few years or at least there has been "a" doorway to sleep in around that area for a while now, and that's where this man has made his winter home. I'm guessing he chooses this type of place because then he's shielded from the wind on at least 50%. This is where I've seen him half laying(there obviously not enough room to "lay down") and half sitting on a few occasions. I've often thought of him during storms throughout the year, whenever it's raining hard or a perticularily cold night. Given I live in South Deerfield which is in western mass but you get the idea, if it's cold here it's pretty cold in Boston probably too. The point is I gave this guy a few bucks once or twice when he asked politely(which he always does, he doesn't ask twice, he isn't rude if you say no, even if you ignore him and act like he's not a human being(which ive seen many more then i'd like to admit) he's simply shifts his eyes down the street hoping the next passerby has a kind heart or has a thing for underdressed middle aged men unshaven and hungry. I make a joke of it but this really isn't funny at all, i'm uncomfortable, i'm sad, i'm angry, i'm empathetic, i'm confused, all at the same time.

Homelessness is at an all-time high if you listen to the news and it's becoming an epidemic in some cities where it's brought despair and a split among residents. Some have a feeling of frustration because others plight is effecting the overall athsthetic qualities of their neighborhood, bringing home values down in some situations, others take a more proactive approach, volunteering at shelters, donating extra canned food to pantry's, giving clothing, blankets, there is a lot that everyone can do to help and they don't even realize it. I know that there are some of you that are not in the best money situation yourself. Just think of it this way, no matter what your going through, there is someone out there that has already been through the same thing, and there is ALWAYS, and I really do mean ALWAYS someone that has it worse then you. If your reading this then your on some type of electronic device where there is also an internet connection, and trust me if your doing that, there are a lot of ppl worse off then you. 

Now, let's talk about some of the things we can do, i'm talking about hard working everyday people that have bills to pay, kids to clothe, mouths to feed and the bank account isn't exactly overflowing with too much green. Little things matter, little things are important, little things go a long way towards making someone who is down on their luck be just comfortable enough in the freezing new england weather that they can at least get a few hours of shut eye, that there stomach isn't so empty from hunger that they can't even get 1 minute of sleep. Find your local food pantry and commit yourself to donating 10 canned good each time you go grocery shopping. That's $5-$10 and sometimes even less if you get the ones with dents/dings which look awful tasty to a person who hasn't eaten in 3 days. If you go shopping twice a month then your spending maybe $10 out of the average $1000-$1500 your pay is if your making minimum wage and working full-time in massachusetts. Obviously this isn't exact and there is different min wage in other states but you should get my point, it's a small fraction of what you take home and instead of one more scratch ticket, having 2 less beers when your out with your friends once or 3 gallons less of gas, IN AN ENTIRE MONTH. Come on people that's nothing and thats a huge help to that pantry. If everyone did this, they'd have more then enough, much more then enough, the problem is everything says there going to and doesn't, or wants to and forgets.

 Let's all step up and be one of the good ones, maybe even one of the great ones, if you can afford to do other things too then even better, sadly, every problem run basically right now has a severe shortage by the middle of winter and they are flat out by then end. There are programs that give winter clothes to homeless veterans to help with those freezing conditions, go through your closet and donate the things you don't wear anymore. Ladies here's your chance to get rid of that sweet bomber leather jacket your husband had that was cool in high school and way too tight now that he tries to wear everytime you go out, gloves that you never used because you didn't like the color, that sweater your gram bought you that has raindeer on it and you pretended to love it but your never going to wear it out in public, shit you won't even put it on just incase one of your kids sneaks around the corner with a camera. DONATE WHAT YOU DONT USE, SOMEONE ELSE OUT THERE WILL MAKE NOT ONLY GOOD USE OF IT AND WEAR IT THE ONCE A MONTH MAYBE YOU WOULD IF YOU LIKED IT BUT THEY MAY NEED IT SO MUCH IT'S WORN EVERYDAY AND EVERY NIGHT!

These are just a few small things we can do that could possibly even save a life, your not going to see the difference your making but I can tell you, YOUR DOING THE RIGHT THING. If you want validation then email me and i'll write a post about what you did even. Better yet, go to that food pantry and offer to help pass out some of that food that you brought in, you'll get paid better then you'd ever imagined.....with some incredible stories(some sad, some confusing, some you won't believe and some you shouldn't believe) with some smiles and with more then 1 "THANK YOU". That right there is your validation, that should be something you pass on to your kids, friends, family. Let them know how good it felt, spread that and then maybe one more person doesn't go hungry in your city and it goes and goes.....

The story below is pretty incredible, it started off as a school project but when the year ended and it wasn't actually completed and something tangable she ventured on, failed, stepped back, started back fixing what she needed and continued over and over until it's now something that is literally going to save lives all over the city in year 1. She has bigger idea's though, eventually she wants it to be a self sustaining project that is in a big enough building that she can provide shelter for the women working to make the jackets while they are making minimum wage and getting their lives back on track, this will help provide a stable environment for that adjustment period between the street/shelter cycle that continues on and on and hopefully ends with street/shelter/"The Detroit Empowerment Plan"/then finally back to independent living. She is helping to break that awful cycle of homelessness. These jackets/sleeping bags are made by homeless women who are paid minimum wage while they are living in the Detroit shelter and they are given away for free to the community homeless population which numbers 20,000 strong through her funding efforts which were made possible with the help of local and national media catching wind of this story. The redesigned coat that is now the final version after multiple tries at other designs. This version is called Element-S which is self heated, waterproof and turns into a sleeping bag at night which keeps you warm from trapping and using the built up heat produced. 

Check out the article for yourself, its amazing to see what someone can do if they put their mind to it, never stop moving and do what you can. I don't write this to guilt you, I know that everyone wants to help it's just a matter of putting a plan into action. Figure out what you can do and try it for a month, if it doesn't work try something else, just do what you can, someday you may be in their shoes and hopefully i'll walk by and give you a hand.....

How A 21-Year-Old Design Student's Sleeping-Bag Coat Could Break The Cycle Of Homelessness | Fast Company:

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+Joshua Hastings