December 20, 2011

By Katie Kolbet, Communications Specialist

If you haven’t met the CHAS Homeless Outreach team consisting of Lee Nelson and Ilze Zarins-Ilgen, you should. They are both amazing people who work extremely hard in the local homeless community. Fortunately for me, in early December, I had the pleasure of spending a day out in the community with this phenomenal duo.

CHAS serves a huge population in Spokane and some of our regular patients are part of the homeless community. CHAS often holds employee sock, blanket and clothing drives. Lee collects these items and hits the streets in search of those in need. On the day I accompanied the team, we visited Shalom Ministries, City Gate, Transitions Women’s Center and House of Charity. We also made stops under bridges, next to railroad tracks and even into urban forests.

While in the forest we met a man who showed me how much of an impact the CHAS outreach team really makes. The man was new to the encampment and his only source of income was food stamps. In his words, he is just “trying to survive”. As with everyone else we met that day, we were welcomed with hugs and stories. “Three adults and a dog in a tent, keeps us warm, but we don’t get a lot of sleep,” he said with a smile.
As we were getting ready to leave, Lee handed out hygiene packs with basic necessities like razors, soap, deodorant, a washcloth, a granola bar, and a pair of warm wool socks. Upon receiving this gift from CHAS, tears welled up in the man’s eyes. . .I don’t know that I have ever seen someone so happy to get a pair of socks. But I know it wasn’t just the socks, it was the kindness and time given to understand an undoubtedly unique situation.

Remember, it’s the small things in life that can make a big difference.