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Halloween and People Experiencing Homelessness

Dog the Bounty Hunter and Homeless PersonSan Diego, California, is seeing an unusual Halloween celebration this year, as millionaire Jim Lawlor hosts a party to aid the people experiencing homelessness. Lawlor, now the star of a TV reality show, was once in the situation of not having a roof over his head. This was nearly 20 years ago, and since then he became wealthy by inventing specialized goggles for use in spray-painting jobs. The uncredited press release says,

He now devotes much of his energy giving back to the community. ‘How can we call ourselves ‘America’s Finest City’ when we have one of the worst homeless problems in the nation?’, Lawlor asks.

The reality show in which Lawlor is the featured character is, naturally, about him — a guy who throws a lot of parties at the Pacific Beach Castle, produces a bikini calendar, and also donates time, money and energy to philanthropy. Leading up to Halloween, he recruits “angels” and sends them out with bags filled not with candy, but with healthful munchies. This process of delivering holiday swag to street people is called “Reverse-Trick-Or-Treat.”

The genial host draws donors to his parties by having plenty of gorgeous women on hand. He gets the gorgeous women there by offering hefty prizes for the most alluring costumes. The gender politics may be questionable, but there is no doubt that the results are worthwhile. When the partier-goers arrive, they leave their contributions in a donation box. After the total is tallied up, Lawlor himself matches the amount before passing it on to his chosen charitable organization. This year, the group that benefits is Photocharity, which funds the San Diego Youth Services’ Storefront emergency shelter.

In Cleveland, Ohio, the Girl Scouts are doing their part for the Halloween fun of kids in shelters. Cheryl Bohr, who leads a troop of six- and seven-year-olds, told a reporter that she and her daughter got the idea from an article in American Girl magazine. After collecting “gently used” Halloween costumes, the young Scouts plan to deliver them to Project Hope for the Homeless, where they will tour the shelter.

Via Associated Content, Rebecca Rosenburg offers ideas to the personnel of shelters everywhere, on the subject of creating Halloween fun for the children who find themselves spending the holiday on their premises. Of course, families who don’t even make a living wage can’t be expected to buy these frivolities. So first involve the public, and collect gently used costumes and components, as well as Halloween decorations, paper plates, napkins, pumpkins, carving kits, and anything else you can think of to add to the festivities.

Depending on how the institution usually operates, the staff can prepare a Halloween-themed meal, or, if families do their own cooking, ingredients for Halloween-themed goodies can be provided. And, of course, encourage the residents to decorate their own quarters and the common areas, and even outdoors, if that’s appropriate, and if there are donated items to decorate with.

Of course, when the holiday is over, and if there’s room for storage, it’s a good idea to hold onto the costumes and salvageable decorations. Throughout the year, an effort can be made to save old sheets and blankets and odd bits of clothing that can be used to construct costumes next year.

Rosenburg recommends checking area churches and other institutions that invite children for Halloween fun. In my city, for instance, where there is still a pedestrian shopping area called Old Town, the merchants give out candy during the day. The sidewalks are full of costumed kiddies accompanied by their parents or day-care providers. Many churches host “Trunk or Treat,” or similar events. Put up fliers or write it on a chalkboard, just let the customers know that these events are planned.

The news we had all been breathlessly waiting for was announced on the 15th of this month, when Sophie Forbes reported on the Halloween activities of Paris Hilton and her main squeeze, Cy Waits. The celebrity couple first shopped for a carload of pumpkins, then delivered them, along with many other treats, to the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles (a.k.a. Skid Row).

It’s one of the biggest family shelters in the country, and certainly the largest in Los Angeles, with not only transitional housing, but clothes, recovery programs, medical and dental programs, job training, and counseling. The tour that Paris and her boyfriend took of the facility offered, of course, lavish photo opportunities, and it looks like a good time was had by all.

Now, here is a question that apparently is on a lot of people’s minds, going by the evidence of online forums and discussion groups, anyway. At Halloween, is it cool for a housed person to wear a hobo costume, or some other outfit implying homelessness? Is it a consciousness-raiser, or a thoughtless, hurtful deed? Is it offensive, or merely in bad taste? Reactions?

Source: “A Halloween Party To Help Solve The Homeless Problem In San Diego?,” Free Press Release, 10/24/10
Source: “Scouts look to bring Halloween to homeless kids,” The News-Herald, 10/08/10
Source: “Homeless on Halloween: Celebrating Halloween at the Homeless Shelter,” Associated Content.com, 10/07/10
Source: “Good deed of the day: Paris Hilton delivers Halloween goodies to a homeless shelter,” Daily Mail, 10/15/10
Image by Beau B, used under its Creative Commons license.