As an artist, Sharla Valeski is keen about aesthetics and making people cozy in their surroundings.
Soon after looking at homeless encampments in downtown Jacksonville, she had an idea to not only boost how they look but enhance the quality of lifestyle for their occupants. She was previously amassing toiletries and other essentials to give to homeless gentlemen and women but a short while ago started off a fundraising generate to obtain them “pop-up” transportable tents as effectively.
The tents would swap existing kinds produced of cardboard and other assorted products that are no match for the elements.
“I’m not capable to solve homelessness, but I’d like to appear up with strategies to give them comfort,” she mentioned.
Valeski, a visual artist for 30 decades, owns The Future Gallery on Laura Avenue downtown and Black Sparrow Houses, which buys and fixes up residential residences and manages rental properties. Before starting off her commercial enterprises, she worked in the nonprofit area for about 10 years, including with homeless purchasers at Gateway Neighborhood Companies.
“The method brought homeless addicts off the streets and into cure using the triage of restoration to assistance them,” she explained. “I formulated art remedy assignments for all the purchasers … and labored specifically with these clients.”
After 5 many years, she was burned out on the task.
“We located that when clients shared their trauma stories with us, we had been currently being traumatized also,” she said. “I had to depart, for my possess psychological wellness. I’ve experienced above 15 years to consider about my encounters at Gateway and sense I have the suitable schooling, everyday living practical experience and empathy for interacting properly with most of the homeless population whilst recognizing the ones who could be unsafe.”
Now 60, Valeski stated her latest mission began in September soon after an encounter with a girl sitting down on the sidewalk exterior the Duval County Courthouse. The woman was putting on tiny clothes and no undergarments but rejected her provide of funds, asking as an alternative for tampons and cigarettes.
“I recognized, in the point out she was in, she would not be equipped to stroll into any store for food stuff or particular objects she wanted,” she claimed. “Right until that day, I had normally averted my eyes when I noticed homeless folks on the street. I felt uncomfortable and unempowered to aid them. But one thing about my face with this woman transformed my thinking.”
“Had any of us had various situation, we could be in the same position,” she claimed. “The language of ‘them’ and ‘us’ … needs to be ‘we.'”
That working day Valeski bought the woman the asked for products, as very well as underwear, socks, wipes and tissues, and resolved to expand her achieve.
“I recognized females were greatly burdened with maintaining themselves clear even though living outdoor in the things, so I made the decision to place collectively vital objects luggage for women of all ages and through careful distribution, get to know the females downtown who are living rough,” she mentioned. “Then I discovered out that some ladies are living in minor teams with men. These little teams are like households and I felt bad that I only experienced bags for the women and not the males, so I made bags of crucial items for guys.”
Among the homeless she has met in downtown Jacksonville is Annette Spears, who has been in the town five yrs.
“She is a very nice female,” Spears said. “She was incredibly intrigued in helping the homeless and was inquiring thoughts.”
Spears, who functions as a liaison concerning downtown homeless and firms, explained the particular items in Valeski’s bags are appreciated. But she also requested Valeski for enable with other troubles the downtown homeless facial area, this kind of as lack of drinking water fountains, restrooms, seating places and general public electric power obtain.
“It genuinely can make each one unwelcome and it is standard to have sites to sit and restrooms and drinking water fountains,” she reported.
Spears mentioned she worries about the risk of “roundups” and relocation of homeless persons downtown. But in the meantime, the help provided by nonprofits, church buildings and persons like Valeski will make a big difference in their life.
Valeski’s luggage for females consist of underwear, socks, tampons, cotton/swabs, tissues, wipes, razors, tweezers, tiny mirrors, physique lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bandaids, stitching kits, notebooks and pens. The men’s baggage have socks, tissues, wipes, nail clippers, shaving product, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, overall body lotion, bandaids, notebooks and pens.
The bags and their contents value $22 and $20 respectively, and via social media Valeski has elevated enough funds for about 52 baggage. When she solicited funds to purchase 24 transportable tents, she experienced the dollars within two days.
“The reasoning at the rear of the portable tents is I observed how homeless people today ended up employing trash baggage, cardboard and aged blankets to protect by themselves,” she said. “When these merchandise degrade, they close up in piles all over downtown … putting a pressure on city providers. A moveable tent that can be disassembled and is lightweight and tiny adequate to healthy in a bag would help elevate a great deal of the squander …and give a bit of convenience.”
Valeski designs to focus on distribution with the Sheriff’s Office to assure officers do not view them as a tent town arising. Meanwhile, the goods she has collected so significantly are getting saved in a space in her dwelling.
“I generally place my own safety initially,” Valeski reported. “I distribute the place there are bicycle cops and protection guards patrolling the buildings or city parks with a lot of folks all over and active storefronts. I also go to the small encampments by the properties that offer products and services and meals for the homeless.”
Valeski sights her distributions as far more than handing out underwear and shampoo. It really is about reaching out to other human beings.
“It could be the only constructive conversation this human being has for days. It can be a way to say, ‘I see you and I care,'” she mentioned. “It truly is a way to give reduction, having said that tiny, for folks who have hit the bottom. It is a way for me to comprehend absolutely what is actually taking place in the entire world and my city, my group. Homelessness is a puzzle, and knowledge the pieces of that puzzle requires talking to people who are dwelling rough and finding out about entities that enable them.”
Dawn Gilman is CEO of one of these entities, Transforming Homelessness, the direct homeless-prevention agency for Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. Gilman commended Valeski’s initiatives and questioned her to explain to the homeless men and women she meets about obtainable solutions, particularly for these with clinical needs.
“I have no difficulty with her using it on herself and hoping to assistance, actually trying to link with people today,” she mentioned, noting that homelessness downtown has become a specifically “obvious issue” through the COVID-19 pandemic with so quite a few downtown employees now doing their careers from home. “It is right there.”
The final target is to get persons off the streets and into everlasting housing. Gilman’s nonprofit’s 2020 Issue in Time homeless rely, conducted in January, confirmed a whole 1,452 people had been experiencing homelessness in the a few counties, in contrast to 1.654 in 2019 and 3,241 in 2010. The figures have been reduced but not eradicated.
“The vast, mind-boggling amount of folks who are on the streets are there due to the fact they are not able to afford housing,” Gilman reported.
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109
HOW TO Help
To donate to Sharla Valeski’s tents-for-the-homeless fundraiser go to little bit.ly/2HGXjTq to donate to il [email protected] important-objects-for-the-homeless fundraiser, go to little bit.ly/3jAJzH6. For extra details email [email protected].
HOW TO Assist
To donate to Sharla Valeski’s tents-for-the-homeless fundraiser go to little bit.ly/2HGXjTq to donate to il [email protected] crucial-things-for-the-homeless fundraiser, go to little bit.ly/3jAJzH6. For a lot more data email [email protected].