Can't start the new year fresh without a new project, right?
Some (many?) of you might be familiar with the young homeless family that I was helping last year. I'm assuming that most of you know part or all of the story but if not, the link is here. Blogging about K's story is how I came in contact with a lot of you in the first place. ;-)
Meeting K (the homeless mother and domestic abuse survivor) and her young children (ages 9, 7 and three months) was a life-changing, eye-opening happy/sad experience. I learned first-hand about the dangers, fears and daily life of a family living on the edge of society in my beloved adopted hometown: San Francisco.
Right after I met K, a young mother named Lisa wrote to me and asked how she could help. She met me at a run-down hotel in the Tenderloin, 2 kids in tow (ages 3 and 1), and brought diapers, bags of clothes and toiletries and nursing supplies for this family. I can't tell you enough how happy and needed these donated supplies were to K. Especially the diapers.
I came to know Lisa and also to help her when I could with her budding effort called Help a Mother Out (HAMO) which she had just started with a friend. Through constant effort, Lisa and HAMO have collected over 130,000 diapers for shelters, crisis nurseries in the SF Bay Area. The Bay Area does not have a diaper bank and there is no other organized way of helping needy families get diapers for their babies.
Why all the explanation?
When I was working with K and the kids over the course of several months, I learned a lot. Let me give you an example.
When I first met K, as a homeless mother, she was not on any sort of assistance at all. She fled an abusive, dangerous husband with all the cash she could gather and found a cheap hotel in the Tenderloin. That hotel was $60 a night. The day I met her was her last day in the hotel unless she could come up with more money (which many of you were kind enough to help with). The following month after I met her, she started to receive welfare. These are real numbers below. I became very familiar with them over the course of months last year.
- $583 a month for a family of four for housing (that means finding housing for $145 a week in SF. Try to imagine what kind of housing that will get you.)
- $380 a month in food stamps for a family of four ($95 a week/$23.75 per person, per week. That doesn't go far, trust me.)
- The part that gets left out... diapers. If you're on food stamps, it doesn't provide for diapers, just food. So if you're already struggling, you don't have any extra money for diapers.
- Also, diapers are expensive, especially in San Francisco where you don't have access to Target, Costco and big box stores or online. Small corner groceries, especially in the Tenderloin, means more expensive diapers than moms can purchase in other neighborhoods.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that a baby in dirty diapers gets sick more. Goes to the emergency room more. Means more stress and hardship for a child and a mother living under already incredibly stressful circumstances. Many parents can't afford diapers and food, so they get food. They try to wash out disposable diapers and reuse them. (BTW, laundromats have various rules about washing cloth diapers, and many do not allow it, in case you were wondering. And having enough cloth diapers on hand is obviously another expense most families can't afford either.) So if you're low income or homeless, odds are you don't have a washer and dryer for cloth diapers.
These kids get sick and that affects all of us. (I know in K's instance, she must have taken the baby to the emergency room at least six times.)
So now to the project at hand. What I'm working on with Lisa:
- HAMO’s Mother's Day Playdate will be held in the Bay Area (most likely SF).
- The goals of the event are:
- to physically collect diapers and
- to raise awareness of the need for diapers, why families may not have access to them, and the health and social repercussions of going without diapers, and
- HAMO online gives people easy ways to help. (HAMO also has diaper drive kits that can be utilized in any city where someone wants to create their own event.)
- The event will be a 2-3 hour playdate at a location TBD.
- We hope to have a major sponsor to underwrite the cost of the facility rental (unless we can get a place to donate a few hours for the cause). We're working on it. But more than one sponsor is definitely encouraged and welcome.
- Guests are asked to bring a pack of diapers in lieu of the normal per child admission price.
- Attendance goal of 100 families.
- Invitation list will include bloggers, entertainment professionals, and social media and tech-savvy locals as well as local mom and dad influencers.
- A place to hold the event (SF would be ideal but we're open).
- Catering or help with getting food and beverages
- Donated shwag for gift bags
- Media coverage – local print, web, radio, television
- Other nice to haves:
- Door prizes
- Live entertainment – musician preferred.
- Funds or talent donations to cover additional entertainment (ie: crafts, body glimmer art, balloon animals)
If you can and want to help in some way, you can do one or a few of these things.
- You can go online and purchase a pack of diapers on Amazon through HAMO's donation link that will be sent directly to one of the shelters or nurseries in the Bay Area. Now, or now and again in May.
- You can come to the event in May and bring your kid (if you have one), a package of diapers and meet us.
- If you have kids and know other parents that can help, please pass this on to them. Schools, nurseries, day care, churches, synagogues, other organizations... all around us are people who can help if they knew about it.
- If you have access to catering or food to provide...
- If you know people in the media or can help us network and get more exposure...twitter, facebook, blogs.
- If you would like to be involved in planning the event, let me know! We would like to have a host committee because Lisa and I can't do this all by ourselves.
The Big Picture.
The Big Picture is that this event will kick off a month of awareness and diaper donations online through HAMO. Lisa has picked May since it's the month of Mother's Day. I have signed up to help her make this event as successful as I can. I'll be working on other projects with Lisa, mostly photographic, that will illustrate what we're doing, but this event is the most important part of the puzzle right now as far as the future direction of HAMO is concerned.
I am open to any sort of suggestion, advice, connections and help. Please contact me about any questions you might have, too (tangobaby2 AT gmail.com). Whatever it is you can do, and for some, a donation isn't in the cards (I can totally understand). But even passing this post along to others you know creates the snowball I'm looking for. I've experienced the snowball effect before and because of that, I know it can happen again.
I'm not a mother. I've never had kids. But even I know how a little something like a clean diaper can make a child's life better.
I look forward to hearing from you!
ps.: Facts to keep in mind:
- In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are over 60,000 children under the age of five who are living under the poverty level.
- The cost of a healthy change of diapers for one child is about $100 a month.
- Food stamps and WIC program do not cover the cost of diapers
- In low-income and homeless families, babies often spend the entire day or longer in a single diaper. Inadequate diaper changing leads to numerous health risks and problems.
Charming naked vintage baby photo found on this blog.