For homeless people, gifts of supplies and resources

BRATTLEBORO — Most people are overwhelmed when they read the statistics that show how many homeless persons live in tents or sewers or on the streets of cities like New York and Los Angeles.

These facts - combined with the shootings in schools and public places, the incarceration of thousands of immigrant children who are indefinitely separated from their parents, and the rhetoric of prejudice, hatred, and violence - feel like too much to handle. No wonder the majority of Americans indulge themselves in Netflix.

Driving around town, we see numerous persons in ragged clothes standing on streets and highways and bridges with signs saying Homeless, Please Give Food or Anything You Can. Needless to say, some persons are not homeless but prefer to beg for food than work, but they are the exception to the rule.

I have volunteered at the soup kitchen at the Centre Congregational Church on Main Street, which serves lunch each Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 a.m. I have seen the condition of and the increasing number of persons in Brattleboro who are homeless and in desperate need of food, not only for themselves but their children.

Sadly enough, many homeless persons standing by the side of the road with their hands out, shivering in the cold, are not aware of what facilities in town offer.

Recently, I saw a gaunt woman, surely in her sixties, in town. At first, I was annoyed and wanted to walk by. Then I thought for a minute and stopped and told her to go to the Congregational Church to get food. I mentioned that she could take bags of food with her for the weekend. She thanked me profusely.

Of course, whether she walks over there and eats lunch is not up to me.

I had to ask myself what the average person can do that might be inexpensive and easy. Finally, I found the answer.

If you buy a small paper bag - the kind that holds gifts -you can fill it with miniature supplies, such as a comb, brush, toothpaste, tissues, cough drops, and shampoo, plus a list of all the facilities available in town that function to help people experiencing homelessness find food, jobs, even overnight shelter.

This list is printed regularly in the Reformer and The Commons and can be cut out and copies made and laminated to prevent them being ruined by sleet, rain, and snow. Small items can be found on the shelves of discount stores at cheap prices.

If you carry around even three bags, the next time you see a homeless person with hands outstretched, you can hand them the bag of basic daily supplies and a list of organizations that offer help.

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