Winter Clothing project, Beaverton, OR
The homeless situation in Portland, OR, recently reached critical proportions with more than 1,800 people sleeping on the streets every night. To help alleviate the suffering of the homeless community during the frosty winter months in Portland, the Young Adults of the Beaverton Sathya Sai Center organized an annual drive for winter clothing, with first one being held in January 2017. Sai Center members put together 100 care packages consisting of socks, gloves, hand warmers, toe warmers, hygiene products and granola bars.
An initial distribution dare was scheduled for January 7 but a surprise snow-storm and record-breaking low temperatures threatened a delay to the following weekend. Knowing that the homeless community would face harsh and frigid weather conditions, the YAs decided to brave the storm and drive around to look for those who could not get a spot in the overflowing emergency shelter. The YAs handed out the care packages and 200 peanut butter sandwiches They spent some time talking to the homeless individuals, trying to understand their needs and the harsh realities of their life. Many of the homeless shared that they suffered from addiction and asked for hot chocolate to cope with their cravings. Others shared how their belongings were often ransacked and described the lack of safety on the streets. This forced them to form their own small communities where they looked out for each other and help one another cope in this world of loneliness.
Hearing the stories of the sad plight of the homeless, and being deeply moved, the YAs decided to reach out to the larger community for donations, which came pouring in. Within a week, an entire garage was filled! A group from Intel donated large hot water canisters and a huge supply of hot chocolate packets, tea, and other breakfast items. Hours were spent sorting through all the donations and placing them in bins. The YAs also made another 100 care packages and 200 sandwiches.
That weekend, with chains on their UHAUL wheels, the YAs met at the “Right to Dream Shelter”, where they set up tables for clothing, and another for hot water canisters, hot chocolate bags, oatmeal, noodles, sandwiches, and other breakfast items. The stream of people did not stop until late afternoon. Meanwhile two small teams walked around the neighborhood carrying a huge hot water canister, hot chocolate mix, and care packages. Another team drove to the homeless camps under the bridges to hand out the care packages and blankets. When the team ran out of hot water, a man named Joseph, from a nearby gas station mini mart, came forward and volunteered to fill their canisters all day long! The YAs served four hundred cups of hot chocolate/tea that day.
The YAs ended up serving on two weekends instead of just one, reaching four times their initial goal. They met amazing individuals within the homeless community, and built beautiful relationships. Due to the immense gratification of having brought some warmth and caring to their homeless brothers and sisters, the YAs have decided to make this an annual event.