Last Updated on Sunday, 03 April 2011 23:32 Sunday, 27 March 2011 22:40
This is the third post in a Lenten series explaining the five-fold efforts of FOCUS North America to provide Food, Occupation, Clothing, Understanding, Shelter (F.O.C.U.S.) to our neediest neighbors. To read the first post click here! To read the second post click here! To read more about WHAT we do and WHY we do it click here!
Working poor and homeless individuals are relying more than ever on generous donations of clothing, shoes, coats, winter gear and other basic necessities. Already financially strained low-income families are often unable to purchase needed winter apparel.
Many homeless people remain in desperate need of shoes to protect their feet from the endless hours spent walking the streets. And without proper work boots, uniforms and work clothing, securing a job can be even more difficult.
At FOCUS North America, clothing our needy neighbors and helping provide other basic necessities is vital to restoring their dignity.
Vera Proctor, Director of FOCUS Minnesota, said that as expenses continue to increase and income remains stagnant or even lessens among the working poor, the clothing closet at the FOCUS MN Center will continue to be an important part of its ministry outreach.
“We take in donations weekly,” Proctor said. “We recently had a donation of nine pallets of really good clothing.” Bill Hoeft, Vice Chair of the FOCUS NA board and owner of Zeigler Cat dealerships, engaged employees at three of his dealerships in collecting the nine pallets of clothing for those in need.
“Some people need clothes for work,” Proctor said. “Others simply need a coat because they don’t have one.” She remembered a woman who recently came into the FOCUS MN Center. “It was cold and drizzly Minnesota winter day and she was wearing flip-flops,” she said.
The FOCUS Central Florida Center services a mainly homeless population and when volunteer Tara Councelman was asked by a homeless man at the weekly FOCUS CF community meal if she had a “wish list” for things people might need, she decided she probably should.
Councelman found that the greatest need for the regular guests at the FOCUS CF Center was shoes—heavy work boots and sturdy tennis shoes. “Some of the people were barefoot and others’ shoes were torn or worn through because they walk so much,” Councelman said.
FOCUS CF has also teamed up with a local Laundromat to offer laundry services for homeless and working poor individuals. Being clean and presentable for a job is difficult if you do not have the resources to wash clothing.
Aside from protecting people from the elements, appropriate work clothing can often mean the difference between getting a job or not.
“One of our regular guests at our Sunday meal completed her training to be a paralegal,” Jacob Lee, Director of FOCUS Orange County in California, said. “She was really excited that she found a suit at our clothing closet that she could wear to her interview.”
And when she was invited back to her second interview, Lee said, she told him she really felt it was partly because she looked professional thanks to the work clothes FOCUS OC provided.
In addition to helping provide clothing, FOCUS NA offers assistance with other basic needs. Last Fall, FOCUS OC gave away over 300 backpacks stocked with back-to-school supplies to homeless kids living in motels in Orange County.
Basic hygiene supplies are also in great demand for poor families and individuals living on the streets or in cramped hotel rooms. FOCUS Care Kits are another way to provide necessities such as soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothbrushes to those in need. Basic hygiene supplies are necessary to maintain health but can also restore a sense of dignity and confidence.
Proctor said that the FOCUS MN Center is also trying to connect those in need with donors who can provide furniture and other items. A recent delivery of a donated bedroom set to a working poor family’s apartment left Proctor with a better understanding of how some of the folks who frequent the weekly community meal are living.
“We walked into the apartment where a few families were living together and there was nothing in the apartment,” Proctor said. “It was a vivid reminder of the great need around us. They had shelter, but not much else.”
Click here to read the fourth post in this Lenten series!
Click here to find out how you can help with FOCUS Care Kits!