Written by Elissa Romines
One time in South Dallas a bird pooped on my head.
I thought it was a raindrop, which looking back seems odd considering every pigeon in the metroplex was hovering over me. Sweet hindsight. Always 20/20.
As I talked with a woman on the sidewalk, I casually swept over the raindrop with my hand.
By swept I mean smeared. And by raindrop I mean bird poop.
I looked at my hand, confused. I looked back at the woman, who at this point was completely horrified. God bless her, she offered her hand sanitizer in that "You can just keep it..." kind of way.
Now, things get a little fuzzy at this point. I just remember feeling frantic and yet very enthusiastic about that hand sanitizer. You know how a surgeon "scrubs in" before walking into the operating room? Lathering for 20 minutes up to the elbows? That was my strategy and I was committed to it. Unfortunate is the word that comes to mind. The scrub-in was a failure in the worst kind of way.
Up to my elbows. And we will just leave it at that.
Why am I telling you this story? One, I may have a touch of PTSD. Two, and more importantly, it's difficult to understand what it's like spending all day, every day outside on the streets. Practical needs come up. Unexpected things (i.e. poop) happen.
People often ask us for ways to care for the homeless other than scrambling to hand over whatever is in your pocket, usually a wad consisting of two dollars, some lint, and a cvs receipt. Being out on the streets day after day, we have a fairly good sense of some unusual items that would go a long way. Mostly because, at one time or another, we have needed these items ourselves, as evidenced by the nightmare scenario above.
Below is a list of some of those items. Use it however you like: nifty gifty bags, stuff things in your glove compartment, you get the idea.
Sunscreen // Poncho // Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Soft Granola Bars (Can you imagine eating a pack of Nature Valley's with no teeth?!)
Deodorant // Chapstick // Hand Sanitizer // Bus Pass (7 Day or Month)
There you have it: items that are often invaluable to people on the streets, AND a cautionary tale about pigeon poop. May you put to good use the former, and never experience the latter.