Bandages, cookies and hygiene products are among the things some local homeless individuals are finding in “kindness kits,” thanks to the 1st Coyote Hills Girl Guides in Penticton.
As part of the national Girl Guides’ Action on Poverty Challenge, the local group put together 43 kits — among the 9,000 kits put together across Canada since September 2017.
“We were learning stuff about poverty, and we made this little poster, and we found stuff about homelessness and poverty and stuff like that,” said 10-year-old Ryleigh Hildebrand with the 1st Coyote Hills.
Hildebrand said one of the things she learned about homelessness is that there is “a lot of it.” Indeed, Penticton’s homeless count last year has indicated at least 70 homeless individuals, but non-profit workers in homeless outreach programs feel the number of homeless has actually gone up from the year previous — counted at nearly 130 — rather than down.
Hildebrand said it felt good to be a part of the program to help homeless individuals get some of the supplies they need.
“Because I’m helping people and it feels good,” she said. “(I hope) that they’ll feel better, and they’ll feel that someone cares for them.”
Hildebrand said the group put in things like floss, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brushes and more, also hand decorating a total of 300 cookies for the kits. The girls were asked to consider things that would fit in a shoebox that they felt a person without a regular home would need.
“They wanted to know if they can bring in a backpack for them to carry the things in, and we thought that was a wonderful idea, but just cost-wise it’s a little prohibitive,” said the group’s leader Linda Sankey — also the executive director with the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society, which is handing out the kits through its Homeless Outreach program.
“We talked about non-perishable goods and what that means and talked also about how you have to carry what you can and can’t carry food for your next meal. So including things that could be carried for a later time like granola bars. So that was quite insightful.”
Sankey said she thinks the program will be effective. The packs intended to be going out starting last Friday.
“I think this will be an interesting thing to see, because the cookies that they made, some of the icing has words of encouragement written with the icing … I think they’re always grateful for the kits,” she said.
“And some of them have children of their own and have lost touch with kids, so it just helps to bring that humanization back to the issue of homelessness and show that people of all walks of life are thinking about them as people and not just as a problem in our societies.”
Sankey said SOSBIS is “happy” to pass along things like clothing or other items people don’t need or want anymore, as well as non-perishables and unopened hygiene products.