The following quote recently surfaced in a donation drive leaflet circulated to the tenants of the building in which I work:
“*Please note that unfortunately CHARITY X is unable to accept handmade items. Instead, preferred items are those which are designed for winter sports since they offer the best protection from the cold.”
While I wholeheartedly agree that homelessness is a serious, ongoing and growing problem, particularly in urban areas, and that we need to come up with ideas and solutions on how to deal with this problem, I take exception to charities limiting their donations to items which they imply should be new, with tags, and of superior quality.
I resent seeing homeless people who appear at least physically capable of working, if not mentally, in clothing I cannot justify buying for myself and my family with both earners working full-time. I resent the implication that the homeless should not have to accept second-hand goods. I further resent having my gently used, second-hand goods turned down because they’re simply not good enough for the homeless.
Perhaps in addition to treating the obvious mental illness of the homeless themselves, we could also treat the people treating the homeless for this disease. Perhaps in their altruistic but still misguided attempts to treat the homeless as equals, they have created a monster. I see dozens of people knitting blankets, scarves, toques and other handmade items in support of various charities. These items are either sent directly to the charity or they are sold in craft sales which raise much needed funds for the charities in question. Perhaps the first step, then, in treating the “disease” of homelessness is to teach some humility and gratitude which might awaken parts of those souls into acknowledging how fortunate they are to have others in the world who are willing to set aside not only their talents but their time toward them and their comfort.
In other words, a hand out is not the same as a hand up and if we’re not helping the homeless get a hand up, then what are we doing? As well, I cannot imagine living in fear of frostbite and turning down a handmade set of mittens or toque, can you?