It’s already hot here in Phoenix. And one of our biggest homeless shelters has closed, sending 80 homeless men, some of whom have jobs, to sleep in empty lots or under freeway overpasses.
Our recent legislation has made “aggressive panhandling” illegal, but I’m not sure that our tent-city jails are a good alternative to homeless shelters.
There are several intersections at which I routinely see homeless people holding signs asking for help. Friends have told me that they are scammers, just taking money people give them. I don’t think that too many people would stand around in our 100-degree heat for 10 hours a day, just to scam people. Many of the homeless are veterans who can’t find jobs because of physical or mental illness.
Sometimes I can see families crouching nearby, under a tree that doesn’t offer a lot of protection. The other day I saw a woman tending a painfully thin dog, feeding it part of her food.
It gave me an idea. I travel a great deal, and each hotel room provides me with small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, or mouthwash. If I don’t use them, most hotels throw them out. I now take them home.
Rather than handing a dollar out the window, I give pre-packaged bags. I pack a gallon Ziploc bag with the small shampoo and conditioner bottles, a bottle of water, a small container of sunscreen (I buy travel sizes at the drug store), gum, a bag of nuts or raisins, small soap, toothpaste with travel toothbrush, Chapstick with sunscreen, wipes, and a dollar. If I have coupons for a fast food restaurants, those get put in, too.
I fill a smaller Ziploc with dry dog food, and if there is a dog, I add the small bag to the large one. It’s easy to hand out the window. It costs me very little. And it can make the life of a homeless person bearable for a few hours. Several bags are easy to carry and can stand up to the heat. No chocolate or food that spoils or crumbles.
It’s not much, but it is something to those who have nothing. No one has turned it down. There have been times where the next paycheck seemed a long way off, but I have never had to sleep on the streets. I’m grateful to be able to do something small from those who spend every night on the streets.
—Quinn McDonald is no saint, but she likes to help the saints that are poor.