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Have you ever wondered if the men and women standing on the street corners asking for help, actually need it? I know I have.  Their broken down cardboard signs, signed off with a “God Bless” tugs at my heart strings every time. I want to help those that are in need, but how do I know what I donate; money, food, or otherwise is actually going to someone who really needs my help?  I know that not all people with signs asking for assistance actually need it, and I also know there’s a lot of people who aren’t asking for help, that actually really need it.  So what’s a “giver” to do?

That’s where organizations like Sox Place come in.  By providing food, clothing, diapers, dog food, socks, underwear, and other sanitary items to help street kids, Sox Place has become a popular place for the youth on the streets to spend their days. Everyone who attends Sox Place has a story, many have been kicked out of their homes, grew out of the foster care system, or are enduring financial hardship.

Creating meaningful relationships is at the core of what Sox Place does by loving and supporting those that really do need help. I sat down with Nathan, one of our frequent attenders who expressed his gratitude for Sox Place and how it has changed his life.

“This place, is a little more real than some of the other resources in Denver who always make it feel like they have to be there for us, but Sox Place is here because they genuinely want to help us out,” Nathan said. “I’ve come into Sox Place depressed many times, but I always leave feeling like a much better person.  There’s always people around here who I know are going through the same things I’m going through.  They’re really listening to me and I’m listening to them and we connect. I always end up feeling better about my situation when I leave here.”

Sox Place is here to serve kids that are on the streets, struggling to survive by providing more than just food and clothing. We also provide job training by offering internships to help build a resume for kids that are looking to work.

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Interns learn to work hard and manage property

“They gave me an internship, which was really cool, and a great learning experience.  Over the past four years Sox Place has given me food when I needed it, a place to sleep during the day and provided me a chance to get to know a lot of people and now I have a family. It’s a really great place to be,” said Nathan.

Nathan’s contagious smile that usually sits spread across his face turned serious as we began to discuss what he really would like from society. It was clear that he’s grateful for the food, clothing and shelter that has been given to him, but the one thing he yearns for, and what continues to bring him back to Sox Place is being treated like a regular human being.

“I would like for society to treat us more like people. Everyday hundreds of people walk down the mall and see a homeless person and just walk on by, avoiding eye contact. They don’t acknowledge us as actual people, they don’t acknowledge us as actual humans, they only see us as HOMELESS PEOPLE and not human beings, and that hurts,” Nathan said, slightly raising his voice full of sincerity.

What makes people in suit and ties better than people in donated or thrifted clothing?  What constitutes them to have the right to a happy life, versus kids who have left an abusive home, or the foster care system? I saw the hurt in Nathan’s eyes when we began to talk about the rest of society, that had a safe home to return to.

“The difference between us and them is they have a lot of stuff, so they have this superiority complex, they believe they’re better than us.  What they don’t understand is if their house burned down in a fire, they could easily be in the same position we’re in, it could happen to anyone. I didn’t think it would happen to me, and I’m out here,” he said.

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Feet taking a break from the harsh world, but in need of socks.

What Nathan brought to my attention was that, having more things doesn’t make you a superior human, and America, and most civilized countries base their worth on profits and consumerism. Homeless, poor, rich, middle class, we’re all humans and more than things, all humans want to be treated as humans, as equals. Loved, accepted, and feeling worth something.

It’s easy to point the blame at society and demand equal treatment to those that are homeless and those that aren’t, but what does that even begin to look like? I was shocked by Nathan’s answer as he began to list things that he noticed, were unfair.

“If we were treated as equals places wouldn’t charge excessive amounts of money to use the bathroom, just because we have no where else to go. We wouldn’t be harassed for having to sleep outside, and we would be allowed to sit down on the mall during daylight hours. There would be no such thing as an urban camping ban,” said Nathan.

I’ve personally never been charged to use a bathroom, I’ve never been harassed for sitting down on the sixteenth street mall on a hot summer day, and this is all due to how I look.  I look like I’m not homeless, therefore I don’t get harassed. Next time you encounter a street kid, treat them as your equal.

If you are looking to help those in need, help by donating or supporting organizations like Sox Place, that treat street kids like the equals that they are and provide them with the help they actually need.  Volunteer in your communities, when you go out to dinner box up the extra food and find a street kid to feed, donate your clothes to Sox Place or local shelters, or buy a Sox Place shirt which helps fund us and keep our doors open! These are all great ways to get involved and make your community a better place.IMG_2013

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