The Blanket Is Life Blankets for the homeless

6 min read

The Blanket Is Life Blankets for the homeless

The Blanket is life 

One Blanket at a Time.

Blankets are an integral part of life. From royalty right down to the destitute, every person needs the warmth that blankets provide. In Sotho the national language there is a saying Kobo Ke Bophelo which mean the blanket is life, and to many around the world the blanket is the only thing they have that separates them from the elements.  It is not just to keep you warm but to provide a degree of comfort as well. Wrapped up in this is the security of hope for a more promising tomorrow, a necessary motivator in times of desperation and need. The destitute and homeless are dependent on blankets to see through the day and keep their hope alive.

There is an old saying, "Life happens…" which has been soiled by replacing "life" with profanity. Regardless of this drop in standards, the idea remains the same. We cannot tell exactly how life will turn out for us; whether we will live in a mansion on the hill or be drawn into squalor, surviving on the bare minimum, or if we live in comfort but lose everything in a natural disaster and have to rely on the good grace of others to make ends meet. No person chooses to be homeless or destitute. There are always reasons behind the hardships that so many people face daily. Blankets provide hope and a way forward.

Where there is hope…

Homeless people may have lost everything over a period or in an instant, and it is at this point in life, the realization of the importance of hope comes to light. When hope is lost, all is lost. The majority of destitute or homeless people see each day through because they have hope, the hope of a brighter tomorrow.

A bottle of freshwater, a fast-food meal, a warm piece of clothing, perhaps a blanket or some type of waterproofing all contribute to keeping hope alive.

There are both government and non-governmental agencies or organizations that tend to the needs of the destitute, but there are many private companies, large and small, that have adopted community outreach programs into their company structure. 

One such company is Thula Tula who have dug deep to provide the greatest essential commodity the world over, clean drinking water, to the forgotten communities of Lesotho and South Africa. Over five million people do not have access to clean drinking water in this geographical area, and one Thula Tula blanket translates to 30 children having access to clean water.

Blankets for the homeless

The Playpump solution.

In 2006 the US President, George Bush, undertook a $60m Aid relief plan to provide clean water to communities without infrastructure for water provision. The US government partnered with Playpumps, who championed an ingenious concept of capitalizing on the play energy of children. In their play area, the children's roundabouts were directly connected to borehole water pumps and the more the children played, the more water would be pumped into nearby reservoirs.

By 2008 the project had gained momentum, and over 1000 Playpumps had been installed, but sadly in 2010, the project was abandoned due to lack of funds. Most of the pumps fell into a state of disrepair. Thula Tula, among other private companies, took up the reigns and began repairing and maintaining the Playpumps so the communities would still have clean water. To drive the maintenance and general upkeep of the Playpumps, Thula Tula generates the necessary funds from their blanket sales, where a single blanket sale helps to provide water for up to 30 children. Donations for the cause are gladly appreciated. To see what Playpumps is all about, view this video.  

Blankets and the homeless.

People always need warmth, and the homeless are most affected as many have to brave the elements without the benefit of a home or structure that insulates their living or sleeping area. Because people are homeless, we the fortunate presume that they are naturally dirty because they are deprived of the luxury of bathroom and laundry facilities to maintain their personal hygiene. This borders on harsh criticism and is mostly untruth because homeless people remain resourceful, and many do consider their personal hygiene a priority. Homeless shelters provide bathing facilities, hot meals, and a clean, warm bed to sleep in.

Many shelters depend on volunteers and donations from private people. This makes it possible for every person to contribute directly to alleviating the plight of the homeless without the need to "toss a coin to beggars on the street." The "haves" are sceptical about cash handouts to the "have nots" on the street because of rampant drug and alcohol abuse among these homeless and destitute people.

Drug and alcohol use is a psychological coping mechanism to suppress or contain experienced trauma and should be viewed as a mental illness and not as a destructive, selfish act. Many homeless people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses like depression. These mental illnesses affect people from all walks of life, and sadly those who don't have a sound support structure may end up being unable to hold a job and subsequently end up on the street.

Each homeless case is different, but a common theme to homelessness is the lack of wage-earning opportunities or the inability to take up employment. The overwhelming majority of people who find themselves in "destitute situations" are there not as a result of their own making. People may work but have to care for their children, and their income might not be enough to afford a home. Some of these people live in their vehicles while others opt for a tent. Warmth, food, and drinking water hold priority over a home. Some people end up in shelters because of their circumstances. Maybe they were trapped in an abusive relationship, and leaving could have meant the difference between life and death.

Whatever the cause of becoming destitute, there is always a human element to consider and the smallest thought and deed performed in helping destitute people can make the greatest difference to life beyond the moment. Donating old clothing and blankets to shelters helps a great deal but take the time to wash the items before donating them. A clean smelling blanket or item of clothing does wonders in uplifting the spirit of the many who are one step away from totally giving up on life.

The young and old

Both children and the elderly suffer most under trying circumstances. The elderly are oftentimes forgotten by their grown children and the cold winter months play a heavy toll on their health. Children cannot fend for themselves, and destitute situations take their toll here too.

A hot meal and warm bed are essential basics that many children and the elderly go without, often for days at a time. The cost of both food and warmth may be out of reach to many in need. Every winter in South Africa, there are blanket drives all over the country that are geared toward keeping the destitute warm. A blanket drive taps into humanity and brings out the good in people. There are various different drives throughout the year, all aimed at helping the less fortunate. Just before Christmas each year, there is the toy run where bikers ride their bikes to centralized points and deliver toys for children over the Christmas period.

The Salvation Army has been in existence for about 150 years and is a trusted Christian organization whose function is to preach Christian values and to lead by example by tending to the needy. Their global footprint is well known as they provide hot food and warmth to the destitute; whether this is in the form of a shelter or perhaps just a blanket to protect from the cold, the Salvation Army marches on in a virtuous fashion.

All these different organizations play an important role in providing hope to the hopeless. They provide warmth and sustenance to the homeless, but they mostly depend on the goodwill of more fortunate citizens.

Life can change for the better simply through the gift of a single blanket or last seasons winter woollies.

Functional gifts or donations

Take a moment to consider what your gift or donation means to the recipient. Does it mean an almost endless supply of clean drinking water to a community, or does it mean sowing a small seed of hope in the heart of a broken soul?

Whatever your gift, there will be an appreciative recipient at the other end. We should think about what our gifts or donations mean to the recipients. When donating old clothing, make sure the items are not worn out and have tears in them. If the item is still in good condition and can last at least another season, then it's worth the effort. A person receiving a nice well looked after winter jacket will feel special in their own way, but if the same jacket had a tear or paint spills over it, it may project the impression that the recipient is not worth much, which can be disheartening to them.

Clean blankets without holes in them provide warmth and can be shared if need be. Food and shelter are considered vital to survival, and by all counts, a blanket is the only shelter many homeless people have. By gifting or donating good quality items, recipients will be uplifted, and this might be all the motivation they need to begin working towards a more dignified life.

Every child deserves the right to grow up with love 

Blankets for the homeless


Steve Watts
Steve Watts

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