Twice a week, volunteers for the Red Cross visit people in the streets of the 17th arrondissement to address a range of basic needs. David Guilbert, a member of the Cathedral Association and volunteer for the Red Cross, talks about his expériences.
David explains that their first priority is helping with that most basic of human necessities: food. The Red Cross teams load up with canned food, cookies, noodles, soups and coffee. They make regular stops where they know people are struggling. Next, they focus on hygiene—keeping clean is a constant challenge for people in the streets who don’t always have access to basic toilets and shower facilities. Staying warm and dry is also high on the list. A single rainstorm can soak all that you have and completely ruin it.
“People’s feet are often especially sensitive to the cold and wet,” says David, “because when you are on the move, your mobility is a matter of life and death.”
Basic foot care is one of the biggest regular needs the Red Cross fills by distributing fresh socks. Since people on the street don’t usually have access to laundry facilities, new socks are a lifeline. Foot care is so important the Red Cross often organizes foot care specialists to accompany the teams, to help people get some level of basic care where possible.
But in the end, one of the most important things the Red Cross provides is simply being a friendly face in a dangerous place. When you are on the street, isolation compounds all your difficulties. Human contact is what gives people a fighting chance to make it to the next day, and perhaps even make it off the street. Without it, people simply give up.
“After some time out with the Red Cross,” says David, “I realized this was probably the biggest hardship they faced. So, we don’t just go, give them food and clothes, then leave. We try to spend as much time as we can just sitting and talking to them. They become people we know, and they know us. For some, we are the only social link they have.”
The American Cathedral invites all its members to give to this spring’s “Socks and Stuff Drive” as we support these efforts.
Through Sunday June 4th, we will be collecting:
- adult size socks
- adult size underwear
- sleeping bags
And thank you to those who have already given! It seems so simple, to give a few pairs of socks, but what a difference it makes.