A group of youth took to the streets of Eugene last week to hand out care packages to people experiencing homelessness. The bags contained standard items like deodorant and toothpaste—and a mental health maintenance kit.
The young people are part of a support service non-profit called Youth ERA. Some of them have been homeless themselves. Last Friday, they spent several hours putting together care packages and distributing them in the downtown quarter.
They handed out more than 25 bags in under half an hour. Each one included a “smile guide” with practical tips for practicing mindfulness and overcoming anxiety.
Youth ERA Executive Director Martin Rafferty says nearly half of homeless teens struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. That’s why they chose this outreach project.
“All of the youth that we work with, one thing that they have in common, is they want to ask ‘how can I make the world a little better?” Rafferty says. “’What can we do?’”
Rafferty says the smile guides are meant to help people reconsider their approach to mental wellness. It’s part of their ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the connection between mental health and homelessness.