Naturally, our hearts are moved by the thought of helping the homeless during the winter season. None of us want to think about people suffering in the cold, with no access to even basic necessities like food and shelter.
But did you know that homelessness doesn't have a favorite season? In fact, the summer months can exacerbate the struggle with homelessness because it is during this season that children are usually not in school, and reasonably-priced childcare is difficult to find. Parents can find it more challenging to keep regular hours at a job, and work to return to self-sufficiency when concerned about where children can stay during the day.
Then, there's the issue that the heat can bring. We all read about the dangers of excessive sun exposure, dehydration, and poor air quality on the hotter days. These issues can adversely affect those without shelter, because there is "no break" from them.
While our region comes together to provide cooling centers and other resources, there are ways that you as an individual can help the homeless during the summer:
- Keep bottled water on hand. On the hottest days, water not only hydrates but can also aid someone in clean-up. You may also consider water supplemented with electrolytes and/or Gatorade to replace minerals lost in sweating. While these items don't need to be kept on ice, please take care to keep these items cooled.
- Light clothing – perhaps you have children who've outgrown last summer's shorts. Consider keeping a bag in your trunk that includes light-weight tee shirts, shorts, and even flip-flops. Please remember that giveaway clothing should be in good condition and clean as homeless people often don't have access to laundry facilities and/or places to repair clothing.
- Foot care & sunscreen items – the heat can introduce problems like Athlete's Foot. Consider keeping inexpensive foot powder, socks, etc. on hand to hand out when you see someone on the streets. Skin damage is also a concern. Personal care items can be found at your local dollar and discount stores.
- Conversation – one of the best ways you can help encourage a homeless person is simply by greeting them respectfully, and smiling. Smiles are free, and everyone smiles in the same language!
These are just a few ways to make the summer months more bearable for those on the streets. Author Charles Bowden said, "Summertime is always the best of what might be." Let's help make summertime the best of what might be for those less fortunate!