Feb 172010
 
Authors: Justyna Tomtas

About two and a half years ago, Ken John saw a homeless person pushing a shopping cart filled with their belongings to transport what few goods they had. And at that moment, he decided that he could help this person.

By simply providing this person a backpack, John knew that he would be making their life easier. In that moment, he said, Homeless Gear was born.

While other charities have devoted their time and funds to bringing the homeless indoors, Homeless Gear hopes to bring the same equipment used by those who seek the outdoors for recreation to those who live there by necessity.

The non-profit has spread from Fort Collins to Aspen, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, providing homeless populations with equipment, clothes and hygiene products.

“What we’re primarily looking for is outdoor gear and equipment and we’re also looking for outdoor clothing. Good, durable outdoor, rugged clothing,” said John, executive director of Homeless Gear.

Gear is trying to help people deal with the elements as best they can until they are able to get off the streets, John said.

“Our mission is to keep people healthy and alive long enough for them to be able to get off the streets. We’re really trying to keep people out of the hospitals and surviving these cold nights,” he said.

According to the Homeless Gear Web site, the average homeless person in Colorado is only 9 years old, and more than 60 percent of the homeless population live in family units. To address this growing concern, Homeless Gear has a program called Children in Need.

Heidi Hood, program coordinator for the Children in Need program, said that their main goal is also to supply essential needs to children and families who are homeless or near homeless.

“Essentially we’re taking what people no longer need and giving it to people who can make use of it,” Hood said. “Homeless Gear meets a need that other organizations don’t, the need of the people sleeping outdoors by providing them the heavy blankets, the heavy backpacks and the heavy outdoor clothing.”

With most of the supplies being clothing, hygiene products, outdoor wear and house wares such as blankets, Hood hopes to expand to include food items as well.

“I think the main importance of a program like Homeless Gear is recognizing that there is a segment of our community, that either by choice or catastrophic event that has happened in their life, they are forced to be out in the elements,” John said. “These people need our attention.”

_Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com. _

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