Let’s think about socks for a minute. You probably barely give them a thought, until one goes missing in the wash.
But for the people in our community without regular, permanent housing, those simple socks can make a big difference, says Rachel Melson, Doctor of Nursing Practice, who works in Swope Health’s outreach and Mobile Medical Unit (MMU).
“So many of my patients are embarrassed by their feet and their socks, which may be the same pair they have worn all month,” Rachel said. “They have to walk miles and miles every day to get around and many of them experience foot issues because of that.”
Socks contribute to physical health and mental wellbeing, she says. For example:
- In cold temperatures, it doesn’t take long for frostbite to set in – about 30 minutes in subzero temperatures. According to Intellicast records, Kansas City traditionally has at least three winter months registering temperatures below 32 degrees, the freezing point.
- When socks get wet, they can breed bacteria, which can cause infection.
- Individuals with diabetes are at greater risk of skin injury, infection and amputations, making it even more important to keep feet healthy and free of blisters or sores.
- Clothing often conveys a feeling of self-worth. People are more motivated to seek support if they have confidence in their appearance. It’s harder to stand tall without clean clothes, socks and shoes.
Rachel says she has seen socks make that kind of impact with homeless individuals.
“It is truly an amazing change in their mood when they are given a new pair of socks to put on instead of their old ones,” she said. “There is nothing like putting on a new pair of socks to make you feel just a little better about yourself.”
Those are the reasons why Swope Health makes such an effort with annual events like Socks and Hops to raise awareness of the need. The most recent event in November 2018 generated donations of more than 15,000 pairs of socks, including donations from corporate sponsors.
- Sock 101 is a Kansas City-based custom sock manufacturer. The company designs socks for fundraisers, giveaways, employee gifts, trade shows and general retail. The company emphasizes fun and functionality, said Tosha Everhart, the Sock Boss (yes, that’s her company title) at Sock 101.
- Notes to Self, another Kansas City-based firm, has been a sponsor of the event since 2015. This company creates socks that deliver positive messages. Putting on the socks, the wearer sees a message – I am beautiful, strong, awesome, confident, courageous, joyful or amazing. The idea is to bring positive thoughts to mind while putting on socks.Since its founding in 2011, the company has donated more than 50,000 socks to women’s shelters and other homeless service providers.
- Another contributor to this year’s flood of socks was Bombas LLC, a New York City-based company that makes socks. For each pair of socks purchased, the company donates one pair to someone in need. Founded in 2013, the company has donated more than 10 million pairs of socks – including 10,000 pairs to Socks and Hops.The donated Bombas socks are specially designed for use by people who may not have easy access to laundry. The socks are made with an anti-microbial treatment so they don’t need to be washed as often and reinforced seams and darker colors give them greater durability with less visible wear.
The MMU and Socks
“We are kind of known for socks now,” Rachel said. “People seek us out to see if we have any to give.”
Every patient who visits the MMU is given a pair or two of socks on their way out. The MMU makes regular visits to homeless shelters throughout the Kansas City area, year-round.
“Every person deserves to feel good about themselves and to have the opportunity for health,” Rachel said. “The socks we give out are just another way we try to help our patients achieve health and happiness. Socks are often an overlooked part of our wardrobes, but to our patients, a new, clean pair of socks can help prevent disease and promote a sense of wellbeing.”
Swope Health always welcomes donations of new, clean socks and other items. If you’d like to help out, please visit the Swope Health Giving page to learn more, including how you can volunteer or purchase items from our Homeless Outreach Wish List.