While many teens and young adult women are thinking about buying new clothes and having brand-names in their closet, Claire Healy is concerned about a different type of closest.
Claire’s Closet, which was imagined by Healy, is filled with products needed by the homeless: hygiene kits, clothes, blankets and sunscreen.
Now a freshman at UC Berkeley, Healy was working for her Girl Scout Gold Award and she wanted to do something for those in need in Pacific Palisades, her hometown.
She met with the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and learned that the two outreach workers from The People Concern, Glanda Sherman and Jessi Cortez, often use inducements such as socks and toothpaste as a way of building trust with homeless people. Once trust is established, it becomes easier for the social workers to eventually convince these people to receive vouchers so they can be housed.
Sherman keeps the items in her car and when asked by Healy what would be helpful, she said, “We could use a storage space in the Palisades.”
Claire’s mom, DeAnn, told Circling the News that the Methodist Church is their family church and that Claire and older sister Campbell attended preschool there. The two girls participated in the church youth groups and the family knew there were lots of little nooks in the building.
Claire spoke to a woman at the church who told them, “There’s an outside closet the Boy Scouts used to use, but now it just has a few cleaning supplies,” and the woman said she would speak to the church board. They gave permission for Claire, a Palisades High student, to store supplies.
The closet is perfectly located because the PPTFH social workers do not have to enter the church or preschool but can access the closet from Via de la Paz.
“Glanda and Jessi can come here anytime,” DeAnn Healy said. “People can drop off the supplies in the church office. I pick them up and place them in the closet.”
When a Girl Scout wins a Gold Award, part of the requirement is that “It cannot end when you end,” said DeAnn, who noted that Claire went to the Church Mission Committee to make sure they “would be willing to keep the closet going” when she went off to college.
Task force member Kim Clary said that Claire spoke to their group and the church and also did presentations. “Claire did an incredible job,” Clary said.
DeAnn is working to keep the storage room and closet up to date. “The whole family learned from the process,” she said. “It [the solution to homelessness] is not as easy as you think.”
Recently DeAnn organized a drive with the church for more hygiene kits, which contain a pair of socks, wipes, toothpaste and a toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, body lotion, a washcloth and soap. The cost of a kit is about $10, and what the church didn’t fund, DeAnn paid for the rest.
“This is for the workers, so that they can encourage people to get into services,” Clary said, noting that the ratio of homeless men to women is about 5 to 1.
“We’ve had a couple of interesting requests,” Clary and DeAnn told CTN, when we visited Claire’s Closet on November 22. “Two Bibles, a thesaurus and reading glasses.”
The two think that if someone wanted to donate portable radios, it “would be good so they [homeless] could keep track of what’s going on — and especially if there are evacuations.”
A wish list also includes sleeping bags, men’s jeans, shoes and white crew socks. “Pretty much everything for men,” DeAnn said.
Clary said that at a recent drive at the Woman’s Club, they received feminine hygiene products and, for the most part, “women want to get into services immediately.”
“It is empowering to know that you make a difference,” DeAnn said, when asked how Claire feels about the success of this project. “She was touched that they named it Claire’s Closet.”
Donations may be brought to the Methodist Church office, 801 Via de la Paz, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Questions? Email DeAnn firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up online at: tinyurl.com/pptfhgive
NON-PERISHABLE SNACKS, such as granola bars and water.
CLOTHES: Beanies, belts (gently used), gloves, jackets (adult-gently used), pants (jeans, especially for men – gently used), rain ponchos, scarves, shoes (gently used), socks (white crew), T-shirts and underwear (Men’s new).
HYGIENE: Soap bar, chapstick, combs, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, hand sanitizer, lotion, nail clippers, tissues, toothpaste, toothbrush and wipes.
Claire is the daughter of Patrick and DeAnn Healy, who are long-time residents of Pacific Palisades. She and older sister, Campbell, both graduated from PaliHi.