Care Closet LB doesn’t just donate items or offer money. They build a sense of pride within the unhoused community that inspires each individual to improve their own surroundings.
By Kathleen Mest
“Hey sister, what do you need?”
“What do you need?” Josie Mineo, former resident at the riverbed, remembers being asked this question, one that so few ask. She remarks, “The homeless community doesn’t need high heels. They need tents, sleeping bags, hygiene products…”
It started with U.S. Air Force Veteran Duke Givens, founder of Care Closet LB, and his team of Care Closet Clean Streets volunteers picking up trash at the riverbed. But it has grown into something so much bigger.
Care Closet LB offers a scholarship stipend to the unhoused who work a shift to pick up trash. This offer provides more than just a financial incentive to this community. They now take pride in keeping their area clean. Josie noticed, “People were taking ownership of their space,” and getting paid was giving them a sense of self-worth. “Everyone was getting along better.”
In their mission to support the unhoused, Care Closet LB has found many partners to help out. Matt Cullens, president of the Westside Business Association, has collaborated with Care Closet LB and donates his trucks (and some volunteers) from his company, Dion & Sons, to haul away the many trash bags to the dump.
“Do what you say you’re going to do.”
“Many people have told us that they were going to come back. That they were going to help us,” Josie shares, “and ...we never saw them again.” But Duke, time and time again, did what he promised. He delivered what they needed… with what they asked for: sleeping bags, tents, shoes, hygiene products, bikes, meals. Weekly laundry days. Haircuts. Visits to the dentist, the doctor, a lawyer. CPR training. Graffiti removal. And week after week, the Care Closet team kept coming back to help clean the streets. Lil by lil, one street at a time.
Nicole Rivera DeLia, Board Chair at Care Closet LB, shares what she believes differentiates
this organization, “You come as you are, and we’ll meet you as you are, WHERE you are.” No rules, no questions, no judgment.
Josie had lived in the homeless community by the riverbed for 10 years. As a result of a terrible car accident, life did not happen as she planned. She was homeless as a student at LBCC but was still able to graduate with a degree, and certificate in welding. She was living at the riverbed when she saw Duke’s team out there cleaning, “When you live in the riverbed, you are always conscious of your surroundings… of who is around.” She went to check on the group and was asked to join them. And she did. Through this Clean Streets crew, she met Matt. “Josie invited me, my wife and a few of my employees to see her home,” Matt shares. He saw her potential, resilience and desire to get out of the riverbed and soon hired her as a welder at his company and helped her into an apartment. Lil by lil, one person at a time.
Care Closet LB meets the homeless community’s immediate needs and helps facilitate their long-term goals. In just a short amount of time (since the pandemic summer of 2020) Care Closet has provided:
• 1,780+ sleeping bags
• 1,100+ tents
• 1,000s of meals
• And has picked up 230,000 pounds of trash!
Lil by Lil, Care Closet is accomplishing a LOT.
The core of Care Closet LB is a steadfast commitment to meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in the homeless community. We focus on serving people where they are by attending to both their immediate needs and helping facilitate their long term goals. From delivering sleeping bags and new shoes to providing scholarships and employment opportunities, Care Closet rises up to meet the needs of our unhoused brothers and sisters.
Care Closet is working on some very BIG ideas to support the unhoused community.
Learn more at https://careclosetlb.org and @careclosetlbc.