Not All Safety Hats Are Yellow

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Author: Mel Brunner 

Here is something to consider as we approach the cold months ahead.  Last winter when I was at the St. Ben’s Community Meal an encounter with one of our guests stuck in my head.  I dined with a woman who would be about my mother’s age.  She was friendly and shared where she went to school, places where she worked and how her family drew away when her mental illness symptoms worsened.  Now she was homeless most of the time.  She spent nights in shelters or wherever she could find solace.

The food hall was emptying as closing time was near.  Was there was something right now that I could help her with?  She lost her hat; were there any extra hats at the give-away table?  I checked but every small article of warm wear was gone.  Disappointed she wrapped the cookies from her meal in her napkin and placed them in a worn out zip-lock bag.

Thinking only of warmth that evening, I mentioned that she had a cozy looking hood on her coat.  She said she rarely uses it because she “cannot see who is walking upon her and does not feel safe with it on.” Her response was a revelation and if I had worn a hat that day, I would have offered it.  I suggested she try tomorrow and come early. 

Homeless women have special concerns for their personal safety.  Many shelters are either male-dominated, have waiting lists or take women with children first until they are full.  To a vulnerable middle-aged woman, living on the streets, “watch your back,” takes on an extremely bleak and dehumanizing meaning. If you are bringing out warm wear, please consider the needs of our homeless women.