The sock ladies were in full force this afternoon. Clorinda and I headed to the Downtown Eastside (DTES) to head out on an adventure and hand out 57 pairs of socks! Thanks Mel and Dad for donating these to us! They helped make 114 feet warm & dry. Thank you!
Clorinda and I were placed last year this time in a clinical rotation in the DTES. We were stationed at Outlook, which is an organization that provides housing, food and other means of support to members of the community. During our placement, we assessed the entire community. We walked A LOT. We met a lot of interesting people, talked to all sorts and learned more than I ever imagined I would. During this rotation I became humbled, hardened, softened and just plain different. Definitely a life changing experience I will never forget. I have to admit it was frustrating knowing that there is so much help for the homeless, yet there is still such a massive amount of people in need. The biggest problem we identified was addictions. You can’t just say, “stop doing drugs”, it just doesn’t work that way. They need support OUTSIDE of the community, away from the familiar. Away from the pressure of the street. It’s easy to judge. I often found myself becoming angry that they “didn’t want to change”, and they “didn’t want to get off drugs”. But this is not the case for many, as they DO WANT help, but just don’t know how.
So what can you do? The easiest:
Smile at a stranger. Say hello to the homeless gentleman that is asking for help. Look him in the eye and ACKNOWLEDGE his presence. In talking with members of the community we found that just a simple “hello” means more than the world to them. They just want to feel accepted.
What else can you do?
Hand out socks :). It’s wet, rainy and cold in Vancouver this time of year. People get what’s known as “street feet”. Their feet become wet, damp and cold for HOURS, even DAYS. It only worsens with no place to change clothes or to keep warm, on top of not having a dry pair to change into. A bigger problem is that with the drug usage comes loss of feeling to the extremities. Drugs act to constrict the vessels hence decreasing blood flow to the hands and feet. They often can’t feel the effect of the dampness on their feet. This causes BIG problems and only worsens the situation.
If you don’t feel comfortable handing out change or food when you are asked for help, try handing out some warm socks. You should have seen how HAPPY the people were that we handed them to. One man even KISSED THEM (thankfully not us) as he was so happy. Others, funny enough, will ask for a different color or a different type of sock, but this just brings about a smile on our faces as it demonstrates the many characters of the DTES. Just carry some in the glove box of your car (a.k.a. the sock box). Then you’ll be able to hand something to the woman who’s asking to clean your windshield. They will GREATLY appreciate it. They are in need of socks.
We’ve become quite comfortable walking around the DTES. Obviously we are still very cautious, but for the most part it is safe if you’re in the right areas (NOT the alleys!). Our teacher recommended we eat lunch at Carnegie Hall (that ‘scary’ looking building on Main and Hastings) when we were placed down there, and now it’s become one of our ‘must do’s’ on our adventure days. 2.25$ lunches which are surprisingly REALLY good! And it’s not at all scary inside. No drugs or sleeping is allowed. There’s a library, pool tables, computer room, games room, cafeteria and lots of yoga/art/dance classes. All for a whopping price of 1$ a year. I recommend checking this place out! Go with someone, or a group of people if you’re not comfortable. Keep your wits about you, and just smile at strangers. Bring some socks with you while you’re at it! You will be surprised by some of the hidden beauty that you will find. Here are some pics to show just that :).
We wil be handing out more socks in February when I’m back in town. Our goal is to hand out 250 pairs. No problem! Our previous goal was to get 1000 hits on our Sock Ladies youtube video, and we’re at 772! If you haven’t watched it yet, PLEASE DO! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luBwCIjMUnY
And please if you will, please send this blog to someone you think might find it interesting, and who might just carry some socks with them to hand out. It’s such a small gesture, but to someone it might just mean the world. You should see their faces :)
Smile with your heart! And hand out some socks to the needy!