In honor of International Random Acts of Kindness Week, local nonprofits are challenging Colorado Springs residents to walk a mile (or any distance, really) in their homeless neighbor's shoes.
But walking around homeless usually means hauling around more than the clothes on your back and shoes on your feet. If you don't have a car, or a safe place for your stuff, you're probably carrying all of your personal belongings with you, too.
That's the premise of the Backpack Challenge, which runs from Feb. 9 to Feb. 15. Participants are encouraged to wear a backpack for a day while they walk around Colorado Springs, then share their experience on social media, with the goal of promoting empathy and raising awareness of the challenges faced by homeless people in our community.
According to the event announcement, the idea was born when Donna Wintz, a volunteer for Westside Cares, was walking in Old Colorado City wearing a backpack. She noticed that some residents looked suspicious or disdainful as she passed.
“I think criminal activity in the city has homeowners on edge,” the announcement quotes Wintz as saying. “I understand the caution, but I don’t like my first interaction with a stranger to be negative, as if I am assumed a criminal simply because I’m wearing a backpack.”
Wintz spoke with Kristy Milligan, the CEO of nonprofit Westside Cares, about launching a campaign around the idea to coincide with International Random Acts of Kindness Week.
“There is tremendous need for caring services and housing in our community,” Milligan says in the announcement. “But the single greatest need is for a collective, community-wide commitment to seeing our neighbors in need as they actually are: our brothers and sisters.”
Other nonprofits promoting the challenge include Ecumenical Social Ministries, Urban Peak Colorado Springs, Homeward Pikes Peak, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and Community Health Partnership.
Here's some guidelines for Backpack Challenge participants:
Wintz, a graphic designer, created a "Try a Little Kindness" emblem in honor of the event, available on T-shirts, posters, mugs and more on RedBubble
. She'll donate the proceeds to Westside Cares.
Businesses interested in obtaining the emblem for a fundraiser can contact Wintz at 970/682-0075 or firstname.lastname@example.org