Embracing the Homeless to Warm the Soul

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Cristina Flores and the huge pile of coats gathered during Cristina’s First Anuual Coat Driveaganza at The Richter Co. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Cristina Flores and the huge pile of coats gathered during Cristina’s First Anuual Coat Driveaganza at The Richter Co. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

cristina floresThe coats, jackets, hoodies, sweaters, blankets and scarves came in way faster than we ever expected. One hour into Cristina’s First Anuual Coat Driveaganza we had more than 400 pieces of outerwear as wave after wave of people dropped by.

That amount didn’t include the 100 coats collected from friends and family members to add to the donation to Haven for Hope. What force of life had we unleashed?

I was celebrating my 24th birthday with friends the very same week, was left somewhat speechless by the amount of support. I’ve never felt so good.

Cristina Flores and the huge pile of coats gathered during Cristina’s First Anuual Coat Driveaganza at The Richter Co. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Cristina Flores and the huge pile of coats gathered during Cristina’s First Anuual Coat Driveaganza at The Richter Co. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The homeless are an ignored, forgotten, and dismissed population. They aren’t granted the same liberties as you and I. Organizing coat drives are important and necessary, but we know this cannot solve the homelessness issue we face in the U.S. Policy needs to change.

About 13% of the adult homeless population are veterans; about 40% of them of Latino and African-American.  The majority of these homeless veterans suffer from mental illness, alcohol/substance abuse, or both. As fellow Americans, we need to assist them as best we can.  We need to address the stigma PTSD and other mental health illnesses have attached to them.  We cannot allow the U.S. Congress to slash healthcare benefits, including medication and services for those who suffer from mental illness.There is help out there, and we need to be willing and ready to lend a helping hand.

The Richter Co. clothing company owner Mario Guajardo tends bar during Cristina's First Annual Coat Driveganza. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The Richter Co. clothing company owner Mario Guajardo tends bar during Cristina’s First Annual Coat Driveganza. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

My friend Rick Canfield who helped me organize the coat drive showed this Co.Exist article to me: “This Ad-Campaign Asks You to Help the Homeless Because it’s Good for Your Health” It explains the benefits of giving back to the homeless and also how as a society we have become so numb to the homeless population.

We ignore them, refuse to give them money because they’ll just end up spending it on alcohol or drugs. This is how a lot of us justify not giving back.  Giving back lifts your spirits. Seeing others give back reminds you that there are still good people in the world. Small acts of kindness boost our own health and wellness, so let’s give back all year long.

 

Thank you to everyone who attended and donated outerwear. This would not have been as big a success without the help and support of my friends, family, and the San Antonio community. Special thanks to The Richter Co., Rick Canfield, The Rivard Report team, St. Arnold, Congressman Pete Gallego, and City Councilman Diego Bernal for attending and donating.

Of course, we can still accept your contributions.

 

Cristina Flores works as an aide to Bexar County Commissioner, Precinct 4 Tommy Adkisson. She is a Corpus Christi native who now calls San Antonio home. She is passionate about social justice, civil rights, and aims to use that passion to improve public programs for marginalized groups. You can follow her on Twitter@cristinalflores.

 

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