By Tyler Moyer, American Red Cross

It is an unfortunate, common sight in America: Homeless veterans on the streets, alone and struggling to get through the day. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs approximately 3,600 veterans are homeless in Houston and for many, basic amenities like shampoo, soap and tooth brushes are hard to come by. Seeing a unique opportunity to help those who have served our country, the American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) team offers its Totes of Hope to homeless veterans in conjunction with non-profit organizations that focus on getting veterans back on their feet.

According to Kimberly Isola, SAF specialist, “It may not seem like much, but fulfilling the need for hygiene items is very important. Homeless veterans can use them on a daily basis. It helps them maintain their dignity.” Isola explained that Red Cross volunteers meet throughout the year to compile donated hygiene products into tote bags and distribute them in a variety of ways. Due to an increase in demand, the Red Cross SAF Totes of Hope campaign increased their weekly personal care bag donation to Goodwill Houston from fifty to one hundred and will increase donations to all of their non-profit partners.

Eric Tillman, an employment specialist with Goodwill Houston’s Veteran Services and a veteran of the U.S. Army, partners with SAF to distribute the kits.

Tillman specializes in homeless veteran reintegration and is grateful SAF supplies the personal care kits. He believes the care packages help to restore a sense of self. Tillman decided to add his business card to the bags and received an incredible response. He found the cards provide a bridge to encourage dispirited veterans to come into Goodwill to receive help obtaining and maintaining employment, housing and other support services. Tillman’s business card method is directly responsible for helping several veterans re-enter the workforce and successfully find permanent housing.

“Working with veterans and being able to help my brothers and sisters-in-arms is always an honor, an honor more than anything else,” Tillman said “It’s probably one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.”

If you know someone who can use the services provided by Goodwill or would like to learn more about SAF Totes of Hope, or the services offered to military families and veterans, please follow the links below.

Red Cross SAF

Goodwill Houston