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Simply the Basics Creates First-Ever Shame-Free Hygiene Bank for Homeless Folks



The homelessness epidemic grows as our cities’ populations expand beyond our infrastructure’s means (or willingness) to accommodate citizens’ basic needs — like living wages, shelter and even hygiene.

Simply The Basics fills one gap that many cities leave open. The nation’s first ever hygiene bank, Simply The Basics, offers those in need access to hygiene products and life skills. They hope to relieve other nonprofits of the operational challenge of collecting, storing and distributing hygiene products, so that they are able to turn their focus toward other barriers.

Inspired by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs  the philosophy that people are unable to focus on any needs higher than their current level in the hierarchy — the organization allows those in need to focus on their next hurdles like food, shelter and basic hygiene. Without those absolute base human needs, you cannot move toward employment, sobriety, mental and physical health and eventually self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Simply The Basics includes four core programs: The Academy, Basic Needs, Location Services and The Marketplace.

The Academy helps its participants see beyond their immediate needs and into the future, allowing them to eventually break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Trained volunteers teach participants core life skills (such as communications and anger management), job readiness (resume writing, mock interviews and specific classes to teach skills like office and food service) and enrichment classes (such as yoga, creative writing, knitting and more). Simply The Basics has partnered with several shelters in the San Francisco Bay Area to bring classes directly to their clients. Every class includes all materials, as well as hygiene kits and healthy snacks.

Related: For Many California Residents, Homelessness is No More Than One Crisis Away

The Basic Needs program is there to safely provide people and organizations in need with essentials, while removing the dehumanization of handouts and empowering them to have the dignity and benefits that come with making choices. By providing a sustainable and reusable Simply the Basics tote bag with necessary items — particularly those that are not often donated or not covered by food stamps, such as feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toiletries,  soap and more — Simply The Basics equips its clients with tools to take care of themselves and rebuild their independence.

Location Services helps homeless folks more easily find the programs they need.  The programs may be there, but there is a lot of red tape to cut through, which often causes those who are already depressed and in a tough situation to become positively hopeless. The time of day, day of the week, location, relationship status, circumstances, age, language, wait lists and many more elements can affect where a person is able to stay. Simply The Basics solves this problem by allowing anyone to easily access services based on their needs at that given time. Available on mobile app or computer, the search is location- and time-sensitive so that anyone can find the closest program based on specific search components with availability at that exact time. By keeping it simple, Simply The Basics allows more folks to reach the resources and help that they so desperately need.

Simply The Basics is building a marketplace similar to Craigslist where individuals or nonprofits can list anything they would like to donate, and nonprofits can simply search to find what they are looking for. Donations are open to the public, but only a registered nonprofit has access to receive the donated goods.  Sometimes donations go to organizations that simply do not need them. While someone may give a donation of socks and soap, not every nonprofit is in need of socks at that time. Conversely, a nonprofit may find themselves in need of socks and unsure where to begin finding ones to be donated. The Marketplace ensures all donations are put to good use by linking everyone together.

Want to help the hygiene bank?

You can go to SimplyTheBasics.org to find you can donate or volunteer.


Laurel Dickman is an intersectional feminist, plus size model, stylist, and fat activist that can also be found via her blogs, Exile In Dietville and 2 Broke Bitches. She grew up in the south between Florida and North Carolina, migrating to the Portland, OR in 2005. All three places inform her perspective of the world around her a great deal. While in Portland, she worked with the Alley 33 Annual Fashion Show, PudgePDX, PDX Fatshion, Plumplandia, and numerous other projects over the near decade that she was there. In August of 2014, she moved to the Bay area with her partner, David and trusty kitty, Dorian Gray. She continues her body positive and intersectional feminism through various forms of activism, fashion, photography projects, and writing from her home in the East Bay. She can be reached at laurel@wyvmag.com and encourages readers to reach out to her to collaborate!

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