Most people who live on the streets or in Portland, Ore., don't take showers -- and it's unsavory. But how can anyone expect a homeless person to find a job that pays them enough to live in an apartment if they don't lather up routinely?
San Franciscans certainly see the value in grooming, which is probably why our idea of charity is giving away old bottles of Chanel body creams.
During the month of December, we donated more than 500 pounds of soap, 300 pounds of shampoo, 600 toothbrushes, and 70 pounds of toothpaste as well as combs and deodorant -- all of which go to the city's homeless population.
The San Francisco Fire Department teamed up with a local nonprofit, Working Essentials, and put the word out that homeless people need to bathe, too -- and the message was well received.
"I can't tell you how quickly people responded," said fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge. "Collection bins at some fire stations were full within the first week."
Appearance and bad hygiene are among the biggest obstacles to overcoming homelessness, said Mark Melanson, spokesman for Working Essentials. And with state budget cuts crippling social services, it is becoming harder and harder for nonprofits like Working Essentials to spend money on things as basic as soap for the homeless population.
"They need a job, and we need to clean them up," Melanson said. "We need to make sure they look great."
There is a reason San Francisco has been marked the vainest city in the nation.
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