Bags for Change
by: Bethany Tindell
Gift giving is the basis of communication. For the “Gift Economy” project, I chose to design, build, and distribute bags to citizens in Colorado Springs, Colorado who are experiencing homelessness. The strategy of the project is to give a gift when help is requested, exchange names, and shake the hand of the receiver. The project is called “Bags for Change.”
The bags are handmade using felt fabric and grommets. There are a total of ten bags. The items in each bag include:
500ml water, small memo book, pen, wet wipes, bandages, antiperspirant, lotion, 4' parachute cord, a list of local resources, safety pins, lip balm, pack of menstrual items (women only), granola bars, fruit wrap, orange, tissues, a trash bag, toothbrush and toothpaste (donated by a local Dentist group), and a pair of socks.
Luxuries such as these are not always available to people experiencing extreme poverty. Shelters in Colorado Springs are overwhelmed by people needing services. The current number of homeless individuals is 1,200 and continuing to rise. One main concern they have, other than trying to “illegally” survive in outdoor spaces, is that they feel invisible in their community. Ordinances get passed by the city council that make it unlawful to exist in public areas and the citations given hold them in a place of debt to the city. I am using this project as a gesture to show that they are not invisible and that they are valued members in our community. Once the bags have been assembled, a note is attached:
On 26 April 2017, I passed out seven of the ten bags in locations around central Colorado Springs. Each time I gave a bag to someone, we exchanged names and we shook hands. The following are the names and locations where bags were given:
Seth — W. Pikes Peak & N. Tejon St. (Downtown)
Red — W. Pikes Peak & N. Tejon St. (Downtown)
April — W. Pikes Peak & N. Tejon St. (Downtown)
Angela — W. Uintah & 19th (Uintah Gardens)
Frank — W. Uintah & 19th (Uintah Gardens)
(did not give name) — S. 8th St. & Abbot Ln. (Walmart)
Earl & Harley the Chihuahua — Colorado Ave. & S. 8th St.
2 May 2017:
(did not give name) — I-25 & W. Garden of the Gods Rd.
4 May 2017:
(did not give name) — Bijou & I-25 (West of Downtown)
8 May 2017:
Terrance — Platte & N. Tejon (Downtown)
Why it worked: The project pushed me to be out in my community engaging with members who feel invisible or unwanted by society. Hopefully, the items and message are valuable to the people I gave them to but I don’t expect that response.
Why it didn’t work: It took a lot of time and funds to make only 10 bags. I wish I could have made more. My ignorance on what it is like to be homeless effects the items I put into the bags. I tried my best to put myself in their shoes and do research on shelter websites as to what items I should consider.
Overall, this project was a first step for me to engage and work with the homeless community.