Along an interstate exit in Helena, Scott Brooke saw two men holding signs reading “homeless veteran.” He pulled over to visit with them.
One had served in Vietnam, and the other during the Reagan years of the Cold War.
Scott explained to the men where they could find a shower and a hot meal on their trek to Missoula. And, thanks to the American Red Cross and Red Cross donors, partners and volunteers, Scott also had comfort kits to offer the veterans.
“I told them, ‘This is to help you get along,’” he said. “They were appreciative.”
The comfort kits, which also go to families after an emergency such as a house fire or natural disaster, contain personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and a toothbrush, soap, shampoo and shaving gel. They may be the first small step back to recovery for someone who has lost everything, or they may be a comfort for a homeless veteran.
“I think these supplies are great. They’re basic needs, essentials,” Scott said. “It’s an expense they have but can’t meet. This is a kit that’s a needed thing to get back on track and develop good habits.”
Scott works with homeless veterans as part of Volunteers of America, and he keeps several comfort kits in his car so if he sees a veteran on the side of the road, he has something to hand to them.
“I’ve been doing this for a decade, and I don’t give out cash,” he said. “At least I had something to help with.”
Scott also shared boxes of comfort kits with the homeless vets health care program at Fort Harrison in Helena, local posts of the VFW and the American Legion, God’s Love Shelter, and Helena’s Got Your 6, a new charity supporting veterans.
Comfort kits built by AT&T employees in Boise during a Red Cross community day are being used across the region for homeless veterans, said Anthony Trimarco, regional Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces director.
As well as distributing kits to community partners, Red Cross volunteers give the kits to homeless veterans who come to the VA for stand-down events.
“It’s a good way for us to stay in touch with our homeless veteran population,” Anthony said. “They see we provide something tangible.”
A Boise VFW post that distributes packages to homeless veterans at Christmas partnered with the Red Cross to distribute comfort kits, too.
“This builds an enduring partnership, helps folks having a hard time at the holidays, and serves the community,” Anthony said.