Tips for Donating Items

CFH is truly grateful to receive a steady stream of donations throughout the year. In addition to the thousands of meals provided by our volunteers, we regularly receive donations of dress shirts, towels, socks, computers, non-perishable food items, and much more. Many of these items help DONATING-CLOTHES-GALLERYus to continue our mission of moving men out of homelessness by ensuring they are properly clothed and fed.

Donating items, however, can be a challenge. A small percentage of what is given to CFH ultimately gets redonated to Goodwill simply because we do not have a proper home for the item. Our needs definitely vary as seasons change, especially since the Emergency Winter Shelter currently only operates six months out of the year.

To help you make sure your donated items meet our needs, here are some points to consider:

Space
Unfortunately, CFH has very little storage space, so items that can be used immediately are given top priority. Food such as cereal, sugar, and coffee are always in demand at the Day Center; our Year-Round Shelter program always needs deodorant, disposable razors, shampoo, and soap; and our Permanent Houses have a regular demand for toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products.Hygiene

Larger items, however, get tricky. A chair sounds great in theory for a man moving into a new place, but if we don’t have an immediate need, we ultimately cannot accept the chair.

Quality
We don’t want to sound like snobs, but CFH does prefer that items donated be new or gently used. A very worn-out pair of sneakers, for instance, will provide little use to a man long-term, and we’d like to provide our clients with sturdy items that will last. We also love receiving computers to use at our shelters and laptops to provide to our men, but they need to be new enough that we can keep them updated and secure.

Timing
Our Emergency Winter Shelter is currently only open for six months each year, so once this shelter closes, the demand for many items greatly decreases. However, the weeks before the emergency shelter closes are a great time to donate items the men might be able to use once they no longer have shelter (tents, backpacks, light sleeping bags, floss, duct tape).

When in doubt
Ask! We love to hear from our potential donors, so if you have something to donate, please feel free to contact us about our current needs.

And Finally
Ask for a receipt! Your accountant will thank you.

– By Kerry Dirk


The “Cause” of Homelessness

A few days ago, I heard someone on a local radio station make a comment about how “almost everyone who is homeless has some form of mental illness” as a way to explain the irrational behavior of someone. There is no way that could be true, I thought. A bit of digging found some very different numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than one-fifth of the homeless people in the United States suffer from a severe mental illness. The Treatment Advocacy Center puts the number of homeless individuals with untreated mental illnesses closer to approximately one-third of the total homeless population. The real number could be much higher, as these statistics only include those individuals who have received a diagnosis.

Why does this number matter? Indeed, mental illness is a very serious concern; homeless people who struggle with poor mental health are often at a higher risk of being mistreated, and their illness is often viewed and thus treated as a crime. The nation severely lacks enough resources to effectively help those with mental illnesses, homeless or not.

That said, mental illness is by no means the only or even primary cause of homelessness.

Attributing mental illness to nearly all homeless people only widens the divide between a person with a home and one without. If I’m a healthy, mentally sound person, it’s easy to assume homelessness could not happen to me. It’s called othering. The Homeless Hubs explains this well: 

“People who are homeless are not a distinct and separate population. In fact the line between being homeless and not being homeless is quite fluid.  In general, the pathways into and out of homelessness are neither linear nor uniform. Individuals and families who wind up homeless may not share much in common with each other, aside from the fact that they are extremely vulnerable, and lack adequate housing and income and the necessary supports to ensure they stay housed.”

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It is when we look at all the possible causes of homelessness – a loss of job, inadequate income, unpaid medical expenses, a foreclosure, a personal crisis, domestic violence, an addiction, a lack of affordable housing – that the possibility of becoming homeless ourselves becomes a lot more real.

man2In fact, according to Market Watch, a study this January found that more than one-half of Americans are one paycheck away from living on the street. And with the lack of affordable housing nationwide, that number is not likely to decrease anytime soon. 

Yet no matter the numbers, we are all humans deserving of the same compassion and consideration, regardless of our circumstances. 

“Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” – Mike Yankoski

By Kerry Dirk


A New Place to Call Home

Last week, 7Getting a Key3-year-old client Ben was given a key to his own home at an apartment complex in Kirkland. This moves comes just in the nick of time; Ben is having heart surgery in a few days. A highly motivated individual, Ben’s immediate goal for the future is to rest and recover in his new place, which is still in need of furniture.

Luckily, Ben was able to secure a bed and bedding through a generous donation. Now he needs help furnishing the rest of his apartment. We’re sure Ben would be thrilled to receive items such as a nightstand to place beside his bed or a television to entertain him while he recovers. Ben1

Want to help Ben furnish his apartment? Please contact us (kerryd@cfhomeless.org) if you have any new or gently used items you would like to donate.