Samantha Wynne was nervous the first time she approached a man she believed to be homeless. Nevertheless, she gathered her courage and walked toward the man standing outside of the Carlyle Care Center.
As she walked, the Rogers High School senior extended a bundle of blankets and food.
“I don’t want any of that,” the man said.
He points to the few remaining teeth in his mouth. He can’t eat the hard granola bars Wynne is offering.
Wynne hasn’t interacted with Spokane’s homeless population much. But, on Monday she walked the streets of Spokane alongside some of her classmates distributing 60 bags of blankets, food and other items.
Shortly after being rebuffed by the first man, she offered a bag to another man standing on Second Avenue.
“Do you want one of these bags,” she said.
He replied, “I could really use one of those.”
She handed it over, commenting later, “He seemed like a nice guy.”
Wynne is part of Rogers’ Family, Career and Community Leaders of America club. As part of the club students are asked to come up with projects that relate either to family, career or community. Wynne chose to start a blanket drive at her high school and distribute the blankets to homeless men and women throughout downtown Spokane.
Over the course of roughly a month she challenged her classmates to collect blankets. Ultimately she collected 60. Then, with the help of her fellow club members she raised money for food and created goody baskets to hand out alongside the blankets.
Wynne had the idea for the project after starting to work at the Onion Bar and Grill in downtown Spokane. That’s when she began noticing the sheer quantity of homeless men and women. At the same time the weather was turning and she started to worry and wonder how those same men and women would fair during the winter.
“Nobody likes being cold. No one,” she said.
She added, “They all deserve to be warm and comfortable.”
Ashley Grow, one of the club’s advisers, said each student devises a different project and does the planning work. However, the whole club, about 18 students, will help implement whatever the project may be.
“It’s nice to have kids who really want to do something,” Grow said, gesturing toward the students walking through downtown Spokane.
There were 1,090 homeless people in Spokane in 2017, according to a May point-in-time count. That was an 11 percent increase from the year before. However, local leaders said that was a good sign and indicative of increased services and outreach toward Spokane’s homeless population, which led to a more accurate count.
After distributing a few bags around the Carlyle Care Center the group of students walked to the House of Charity. There they distributed more bags to men and women waiting to enter the shelter for the evening.
The blankets and food went quickly.
“I want a blanket,” said Robert Nolen. “That will work. Thank you.”
Although Nolen will spend Monday night at the House of Charity, he said it gets cold in there and it’s good to have extra blankets. Plus, he plans to move into his own place in one of the Catholic Charity-owned transitional housing units soon.
On the walk back to the cars to get more blankets, McKinsey Hart, one of Wynne’s classmates, reflected on the experience.
“You could just tell they were all cold and all shivering,” she said. “They were all just normal guys.”
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