Note- I wrote this blog in January of 2012. All links and references may not be relevant.
Most cities are instituting Anti-Sit laws which prohibit people to sit on sidewalks and streets. Anti sit laws are design to prohibit individuals from obstructing commerce. In a report by NationalHomeless.org, the study found 30 percent of the major cities in the United States have criminalized sitting or lying on the sidewalk (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/crimreport/crimreport_2009.pdf). Homeless people have very little places to go and therefore must be on the move to avoid criminal charges.
It is a documented fact that the human body burns up to 2000 calories a day, depending on body weight. The estimated 2000 calorie count does not include calories a person burns up in physical activity. A person can burn an additional 100 calories per mile to increase their calorie burn (http://walking.about.com/cs/howtoloseweight/a/howcalburn.htm). If a homeless person is on the move, carrying their possessions, how much calories are being burned in the process? And are those calories being replaced?
Link: How Many Calories Am I Burning When I Exercise?- http://k2.kirtland.cc.mi.us/~balbachl/calorie.htm
People who I have worked with in the past have given out bottled water and granola bars when outreaching to the homeless. The consensus among my former peers is that health should be the primary concern when helping people in need. Additional, former colleges of mine have given out vitamins to help replenish lost vitamins and nutrients. Granola bars typically have about 118 calories (http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-granola-bars-plain-i19015) which might replenished 1 mile of walking. Water contains no vitamins. Vitamins are a poor substitute for vegetables, but at least do provide some kind of nutrition. So the person who is forced to walk on the streets because of anti sit law are not getting the calories the human body needs.
When a person is deprived of calories, several things happen. Calorie deprivation causes-
- Thin or hair loss
- Reduced vision
- Tongue splitting
- Gingival hemorrhage
- Decreased sense of taste
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Slower reflexes
- And the inability to feel warm
Link: What causes fatigue headaches? http://www.livestrong.com/article/171288-what-causes-fatigue-headaches-lack-of-energy/
Link:Diet Myths — What Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You- http://www.stress-free-weight-loss.com/Grassroots homeless outreach is about providing temporary relief to those in need. Relief comes in different forms, such as communication, providing clothing, or even providing temporary shelter. But addressing calorie intake needs to be considered when providing a meal. By providing high calorie food, a person can help replenish calories burned by the activity of the street person. I have found that purchasing fast food, chips and soda can help alleviate temporary hunger for one meal. The foodstuff is not a source of nutrition. However, nutrition is the least of concern to a person on the street. Homeless people have more issues to deal with than whether or not the food they are eating is health. In my experience, providing comfort foodstuff helps to restore the sense of humanity that consumers take for granted. Providing brand name foods or fast foods is a luxury that street people cannot afford on their own.
Personal outreach is a very difficult thing to do, especially when a person is limited to their own finances. But when considering what to buy, think about the activity level of people who do not have a place to sit. Providing foods that are luxuries help in reminding homeless people that they are still people. And by restoring a person’s sense of self, that person may decide to seek out better solutions to their situation rather than remaining where they are at.