I am thankful for all we have. I’ve never been homeless but I have been close and I went bankrupt after taking care of my husband through his fight with Huntington’s disease.
This morning I looked at the weather forecast and it looks like the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been enjoying is coming to an end. That got me thinking about last year and this story. What can you give this season to help someone stay warm? A simple pair of gloves, a scarf you no longer need? How about a kind word or a gift card so that they can eat a meal inside of a warm restaurant. Does your town have a homeless shelter? That’s a great place to start to ask how you can help.
This is a story I wrote last year. Since then I have made it a point to drop off winter clothing, hygiene items, protein bars, energy drinks, and anything I think would be helpful for a person who doesn’t have a warm and comfy home like we do.
A Simple Pair of Gloves
A couple of weeks ago I lost a glove. No, I have other gloves, but these were the first gloves I purchased when I moved to Oshkosh. I had no idea good gloves were so expensive back then. I soon learned that even on sale, my Eddie Bauer purchase was around $60.00. That seemed outrageous at the time, but they were perfect.
This is the first glove I’ve lost in the four years I’ve lived here and I can tell you I went to every business I had been to that day. I trudged the routes where my dog and I took our three daily walks. I scoured every conceivable nook or cranny in the house but came up empty. It truly was as gone as that sock that somehow disappears on laundry day.
I’ll admit it, I threw a pity party. And it was a big one. Then I thought of the fact that I could go to the outlet mall and simply replace the gloves. I had three other pair tucked into different weight and length jackets and coats. I have a warm home, enough to eat, and money I can use to buy food and goods to donate to people who are not in such a good place.
National Roof Over Your Head Day was a few days ago but in our small city there are too many people who don’t celebrate this made up holiday. I don’t mean they don’t like where they live, it’s too small, or too far from work. No, they have no roof over their head or in some cases their children’s heads. They live on the streets, under bridges, they sneak into public buildings to use the rest room and maybe wash up a bit. They rely on the kindness of strangers who donate food and clothing.
I’ve heard that forty percent of those without a permanent roof over their heads who use the Day by Day Warming Shelter have jobs. Some of them are good jobs. Maybe it’s a prior eviction or high rents or no savings for the first and last month deposit, having a dog or too many kids, but people are having a tough time finding places to rent. Some have made some pretty bad choices in their lives or they’ve just had horrible luck. It doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that no person should be without a safe and warm place to live.
Last week I decided not to replace my missing gloves. Instead, I bought five pair of gloves with that money and took them to Hope Fridge at Wagner Market on Main Street. I added scarves and hats and warm socks. few pair of gloves and a hat or two isn’t going to change the world, but it will make a huge difference to someone shivering under the bridge at night because the shelters are full or because they aren’t sober and allowed inside the building that does have a bed.
I have to admit that since moving from a city with such a diverse population I often feel like an outsider. Part of it is I don’t have those deep roots that so many of you do. I don’t look like most of the people here, I have different life experiences.
A pair of gloves doesn’t sound like much; unless you are the person who had no none and now you do. Oshkosh is by no means a perfect community, but we are trying. Federal, state, county, and individual dollars are being used to find solutions to solve major programs with the goal of ending homelessness by helping individuals to transition to self-sufficiency and independent living. We are learning how to make Oshkosh a more diverse community with fewer inequities so that people feel included. Sometimes it starts with a simple pair of gloves.