For most of us, personal hygiene is simply a matter of walking into your bathroom and engaging in “washing up.” We don’t really stop to think about getting clean. It’s just part of our daily routine. Yet, people experiencing homelessness face a multitude of difficulties in addition to lack of shelter, and maintaining personal health and hygiene is at the top of that list.
Not only can lack of access lead to unpleasant feelings of uncleanliness, but improper care of personal hygiene can also lead to harmful medical conditions including infections, and gradually contribute to individuals losing their place in society. People experiencing homelessness lacking the resources to do customary things, such as washing one’s hair or brushing one’s teeth, may become ashamed to communicate with others or to seek help when needed.
Re-establishing a hygiene routine is one key step to recovering a sense of self.
The Resource Center at St. Francis House provides a safe, comfortable space to escape the elements and get access to showers, clean towels, and personal toiletries. It is also an information hub with computers and phones and is a guest’s first stop to sign up for a St. Francis House ID card to access additional services. Case managers are available daily in the Resource Center to meet with guests for immediate assistance. Additionally, the Art Therapy Studio is open on weekdays, offering a wide variety of materials to engage with.
Michael is our new Resource Center Coordinator, who spends much of his day greeting and referring guests to our different services here at St. Francis House.
“I am most often directing guests to make clothing appointments on the first floor, attend clothing appointments or visit the medical clinic on the second floor, meet with a case manager on the third floor, or attend one of our workforce development information sessions on the fourth floor. Soon, I will also be directing guests to our new Recovery Support Center on the fifth floor”. He also aids guests by signing Verification of Service letters and birth certificate waivers, checks the guest answering machine and passes on messages, looks up phone numbers and directions throughout the day, and coordinates individual showers for guests.
Additionally, Michael is responsible for managing and purchasing our toiletry item inventory. “Typically, we have individual soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, combs, picks, sanitary napkins, razors, and deodorant on hand to give to guests. Although the items may seem simple, they are extremely necessary and our guests are always grateful”.
Personal care is an opportunity to wash away the past, literally and figuratively.
Imagine being asked to take a shower without any soap or shampoo. Imagine not having access to such important items as feminine hygiene products. “Although we do not allow this to happen to our guests, we often need to buy low-quality supplies to be able to accommodate each guest’s showering needs”. For a sense of scale, St. Francis House typically goes through 300 small bars of soap, 500 body wash/shampoo packets, and 300 disposable razors per week!
Showering and feeling clean offers a sense of renewal. Even with access to proper facilities, such as the showers and restrooms at St. Francis House, the availability of toiletries and personal hygiene products are often finite and low quality due to the sheer quantity that must be purchased regularly in order to fulfill the need. Although our guests are appreciative, it is Michael’s hope that we will be able to provide better quality toiletry items. Much of what is available comes in individualized packets, like ketchup, which feels more like a hand out than a hand up. Particularly, our guests voice their desire for less institutional soap and shampoo, deodorant sticks, and razors.
To meet this need, we are starting an Amazon Wish List to provide new resources for our guests.
“Personally, I can assure any potential donor that their contribution is very much appreciated by the St. Francis House guests. And selfishly, I sincerely enjoy being able to give out higher quality items when they are in stock and seeing a grateful guest’s smile.”
- One way to help make a difference for our guests is to consider making an in-kind donation from our new Amazon Wishlists: View the List Here.
Along with other staff members, Michael has put together wish lists on Amazon containing items that will improve the life of our guests and the services, such as personal care items. Items from our Wish Lists can be shipped directly to our shelter at 39 Boylston Street.
- Another way to make a difference using Amazon is to select St. Francis House to support on smile.amazon.com.
- Visit http://smile.amazon.com/ch/22-2519129 to set up your account to donate, then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation to St. Francis House!
Whether you’re using Amazon to improve the quality of comfort we give to our guests or doing some personal shopping, you can make a difference in the lives of the men and women we serve. Encourage your friends and family who shop on Amazon to join you in supporting St. Francis House!