February 28th, 2024

Shoebox program helps homeless women

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 30, 2023.

Submitted photo Shoeboxes are collected at the YWCA as part of the Shoebox Project for Women.

Lethbridge Shoebox Project for Women (Lethbridge SBP Chapter) for the third year is collecting filled shoeboxes with personal items for struggling women.

The project began Nov. 12 and will continue until Dec. 10.

Donated shoeboxes can be dropped off at D├ęcor Out the Door or Gary Moe Chrysler dealership. It is encouraged that donors include a hand-written message of encouragement to the struggling women. Lethbridge SBP Chapter local coordinator Helen Thompson talked about the local need for donations.

“Lots of times we’re giving, and we give to different countries, and there’s a need right here at home. And lots of these women are invisible, we don’t see them, we don’t see the hurt and the pain they’ve gone through. We have these boxes, just make them feel that somebody cares, “said Thompson.

The Shoebox Project for Women was founded in Toronto in 2011 by four sisters-in-law; it was not until 2020 when the women Shoebox Project came to Lethbridge. Thompson talked about the higher risk homeless women face and how many of those women are Indigenous.

“Last year out of 450 people in the city of Lethbridge on the streets, there were 160 women and 90 per cent of them are Indigenous women. And so that’s sort of scary, because women are at so much more risk if they don’t have a roof over their head.”

Items that can go in the shoeboxes include shampoo, conditioner, makeup items, toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, chocolate, minimum $10 gift card to local grocery store, scarves, myths, hats, body wash, skincare, skin lotion, deodorant, sunscreen, lipstick, nail polish but nothing containing alcohol.

“The other side we don’t see is the women who are homeless, but they’re not on the streets. They’re living, as we call it couch surfing, (with) friends or they’re living in a bad relationship because they don’t want to be on the streets. They’re being abused and they’re exchanging sex for a roof over the head. There’s so many things we don’t see,” said Thompson.

The shoeboxes are given to local organizations such as Streets Alive and YWCA Harbour House which then distribute them.

Thompson says homeless women are grateful for the shoeboxes.

“The women are just amazed that somebody would give them something like that. ‘Like, why me,’ that’s what Streets Alive tells me. It just warms my heart and (I) know we’re doing the right thing.”

When creating a women’s shoebox for donation the value should be at least $50. All items must be new. “Everything has to be new, nothing used, nothing alcohol-based because some of the women have an addiction to alcohol. And we just want to make sure we’re supporting them in the best way we can,” said Thompson.

Lethbridge SBP Chapter says data shows 96 per cent of homeless women have experienced forms of violence and trauma. Last year just over 50 shoeboxes, were donated with 22 of them going to YWCA Harbour House along with 17 pairs of donated gloves and 12 pairs of socks.

“We have to make sure we give them enough boxes that hopefully everybody that’s homeless can get them,” said Thompson.

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