One of the re-occurring themes in recent years in my dealing with the homeless is frequently supplying them with sleeping bags, a need that might seem obvious given rough sleeping often involves sleeping outside in the cold. The need is such that when carrying out my various activities, I often find myself taking along with me a stock that then gets depleted, and needing replenishing. I am grateful for thoughtful people like one friend that sends me a few from time to time via Amazon. Even today, when the night shelter I manage closed, two guests requested a sleeping bag given they might need it while spending half of their time outside.
It is an inconvenient truth to consider the relationship a rough sleeper has with his/her sleeping bag. Some get through them at an alarming rate knowing they can discard these (as well as duvets and blankets) given the number of do-gooders out there who will give replacements. But think of the challenge for those forced to carry around on their person many of their worldly possessions, and often things like sleeping bags go astray, ruined by the elements and even taken away by the authorities. Even the more responsible rough sleepers find themselves regularly going through sleeping bags.
This leads me to another story, posted on Facebook today, with the intriguing title: “Teenager creates waterproof and fireproof sleeping bags for the homeless – and they’re already ‘saving lives’”. The story is about a 15 year old that invented a sleeping bag that specifically meets the need of rough sleepers and from the report is already making a significant difference. I have no doubt there are many things many rough sleepers might find helpful and there is scope for all of us to help in a variety of ways. What this young person did was remarkable but is also an example of what might be done.
Yet another Facebook story, posted today, has the title: “How do I … help rough sleepers?” and broaches the subject of what any one of us could do. I have already considered most of the ideas from this article in my earlier blogs and there are many others that any of us could take up according to our circumstances etc. In my Facebook exchanges was one concerning an under 18 year old (18 is significant because of child protection considerations) who wanted to help the homeless, exploring ways he might help (I was proud my under 18 year old volunteered at the shelter last night). The other was with someone that wanted food that supermarkets etc. are prepared to donate to go to the homeless, considering the practicalities.
It is impossible to be prescriptive when it comes to whether or not we help the homeless (and how) given the needs of the needy are huge, wide and varied and, if we decide we want / need to help, how to go about it? While there is a plethora of needs and although often we are barely able to scratch the surface, we find often when we do help we can and do make a difference. In my writings, I have made many suggestions of what could be done but what is then needed is the gumption and compassion to respond appropriately.
Back to the subject of sleeping bags, I recall now that I wrote on the subject some six months back. Much of it still applies.