Here in San Francisco there are constant reminders that homelessness is an issue. And while a lot of us look at it merely as an inconvenience (guilty as charged), it’s actually a very alarming, disturbing and kind of mindboggling problem.
According to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on any given night. Set your Starbucks down for a second and just think about that — more than half a million people were sleeping in a shelter or on the street. To top that, nearly a quarter of those homeless were children and more than 10% were veterans.
In addition to homelessness being no bueno for those who are experiencing it (slight inconvenience for me, really sucky for the guy sleeping on the street), it is also expensive. It also takes its toll on the economy, the environment, health care and the criminal justice system.
Fortunately (you know I’m never one to view the glass as half empty), there are companies out there that you can support to help make a difference.
Some of my very favorite jewelry comes from L.A. based company, The Giving Keys. The company began by engraving keys with inspirational words — I have BREATHE and GRATEFUL, but they also have words like DREAM, CREATE and INSPIRE — that they then turned into necklaces. The company encourages the beholder of each necklace to embrace their word and then pass it on to someone else that needed that message when the time comes. Today, while the assortment has expanded beyond just keys and necklaces, that pay it forward attitude remains. The best part about The Giving Keys is that every product you purchase supports job creation for individuals transitioning out of homelessness, which is amazing since one of the main causes of homelessness is job loss.
Based out of Austin, Texas, Mitscoots Outfitters is your one stop shop for quality, U.S. made hats, beanies, shirts, scarves, gloves and socks that help the homeless. Similar to The Giving Keys, Mitscoots works with their local shelters to employ those transitioning out of homelessness by having them help package and ship out their gear. In addition to that, for every piece of gear you purchase from Mitscoots, they will give an equal quality item to someone in need.
In 2013, Sackcloth & Ashes founder had a brush with homelessness when his mother, a hardworking single mom, found herself on the streets. After realizing homelessness wasn’t a choice and wanting to help, he did some research and found that blankets were a hot commodity in homeless shelters. And so, in 2014, Sakcloth & Ashes was born. For every blanket you purchase from Sackcloth & Ashes the company will give a blanket to your local homeless shelter.
Twice As Warm started with a simple goal to provide new winter clothing to people in need. They started with their “Wear One, Give One” program — for each purchase of one of their American made hats, gloves or scarves, they provided a new clothing item to a person in need. In their first winter they were able to give over 200 items to those in need and have since expanded to advance their efforts.