Providing Warmth to People Experiencing Homelessness

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This article was provided by Janet and Rachel from Socks 4 Souls Canada.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for many Canadians. Our homes have been performing double and triple duty. They are now also our offices, gyms, restaurants, and even places of worship. Over the past 10 months, families gathering around a computer to engage with their loved ones on the screen have replaced in-person celebrations, and friends chatting via video miss the touch of a handshake or a hug.

Now imagine if the streets were your home. Picture what it would be like to carry everything you own on your back. Your days are focused on finding a warm place to sit, to sleep, and a hot meal to nourish you. Interviews with people experiencing homelessness have described the experience as feeling “rootless, alienated, exposed, and naked”. And the longer a person remains without a home, the more difficult it is to return to the mainstream of society. As Street Sense Media powerfully put it, “Being homeless is destabilizing, demoralizing and depressing. You’ve lost your base, a foundation from which to function. It becomes hard to focus. Constant obstacles chip away at your self-esteem and your healthy personality withers, disintegrates, scatters.”

People Experiencing Homelessness in Canada

The population of people experiencing homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area and in Canada has seen a rise during the pandemic due to reduced capacity at shelters and COVID-19 physical distancing protocols.

  • An estimated 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year.
  • 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night.
  • One of the fastest-growing demographics of the homeless population is children & families.
  • 28% of homeless people in Toronto are youth.
  • 850 to 2,000 youth are homeless on any given night in Toronto.
  • 36% of homeless people have been homeless for more than one year.
  • 75% experiencing homelessness struggle with mental illness.

Why Foot Health is Essential to Those Experiencing Homelessness

“Foot problems have been described as a common concern among homeless individuals, but these are often overlooked and inadequately treated. Walking is a common mode of transportation among homeless individuals and increased risks of physical injury, poor hygiene, and inadequate footwear have been cited as contributing factors to the development of foot problems.” (Foot Conditions among Homeless Persons: A Systematic Review)

The rise of COVID-19 and the call for physical distancing has challenged the capacity of shelters, making accessibility and housing limited to those who need it most. This has forced many to seek shelter and warmth elsewhere. As winter approaches, so does the need for proper attire to face the cold. Having access to clean new socks allows individuals to travel in comfort and stay warm during a time where shelter and housing are limited.

How Socks 4 Souls Canada is Helping

Socks 4 Souls Canada is a non-profit, volunteer organization committed to contributing warmth, comfort, dignity, mobility, and health to those experiencing homelessness by providing them with new clean socks. We recognize the importance of good foot health and how it can impact one’s ability to seek food, shelter, medical care, and other social services.

Founded by five friends in 2015 who wanted to make a difference in their communities and the world a better place, Socks 4 Souls Canada was born.

Co-Founder and now Socks 4 Souls Canada chairman Richard (Rick) Fitzgerald describes the importance of  putting socks on the feet of people experiencing homelessness:

  • Socks not only provide warmth and comfort, but keep feet healthy, allowing people to remain mobile and get to meals, shelters, and job interviews.
  • Healthy feet and mobility are not things that all people experiencing homelessness can count on. Having something as simple as socks can have an incredible impact on their lives.

The very week Socks 4 Souls Canada was conceived, the five founders pursued friends for donations, and the first 900 pairs of socks were bought at wholesale prices and delivered to homeless shelters in downtown Toronto. Today, the organization has distributed over 610,000 pairs of socks and attracted over 400 volunteers who support through sock- sorting events and spreading the word to friends and colleagues.

During the pandemic we are not able to accept sock donations from workplace and school sock drives as usual. Fortunately, monetary donations no matter how small, go a long way.

Every $1 you donate provides a homeless person with 2 pairs of warm, new socks. Your generosity can help us spread warmth, comfort and dignity this winter season.

Learn more and make a donation in support of Socks 4 Souls Canada today.

References:

  1. “Foot Conditions among Homeless Persons: A Systematic Review”
  2. Raising the Roof
  3. Fred Victor Facts About Homelessness in Toronto
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