“Homeless people don’t get the hygiene products they need, like toothpaste or deodorant, either because they don’t have the money, or because SNAP, the government food funding program, doesn’t cover these products,” he says.
“We want homeless people to get out of the situation they’re in, to gain employment. But how possible is that without proper hygiene? It’s something most people don’t think of as a priority when thinking about homeless people, but it’s a necessity. Especially psychologically, it boosts their morale and confidence, so they are more active and productive. If you are unable to even meet your basic hygiene needs, how likely are you to be able to be inspired to gain employment?”
“It’s been an eye-opening experience for me to hear people’s stories,” Alan continues. “Everybody has a story and it’s not what people think. Some people have been laid off from a job. That’s why we’re really trying to help them get back on track and back into the community.”
One of Alan’s goals is to work with the school system to provide a monthly hygiene pack for children in need.
“There are a lot of children who are impoverished as well and need support, but so many too, who are in need not only of food, but also just a shower and basic hygiene products,” he says. “And that will help to boost their self-esteem and help them to feel better about themselves.
“Some people just don’t have the bare basics to survive. If you are so disadvantaged and someone is not willing to help, you’re always going to be stuck where you are. There’s no climbing out. If you don’t have money, then you’re shunned and nobody wants to be around you.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do to help everybody. You can’t save the world, but if you can help a few, that’s something.”
In Tennessee, Alan had friends from church who managed thrift stores, so he was familiar with the concept. He established United Ministries Thrift Store as a nonprofit, so that he could maximize the amount of financial assistance that would be available to purchase supplies for the homeless. The more he sells, the more hygiene products for the homeless he is able to provide.
“I’ve been to a couple of thrift stores in this area and they don’t have the same level of quality that we have,” Alan says. “I feel we are blessed with the quality of goods that we receive, but I want the community to know that we always need more donations, and if you’re cleaning out the closets in your home, we hope you’ll choose to donate to us.”