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Lawrence activist’s New Year’s Eve Unhoused Project aims to offer ‘a little hope’

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‘It’s become very much a community collaborative project,’ organizer says

Kevin Elliott-Snow will celebrate the new year at the Winter Emergency Shelter as part of his New Year’s Eve Unhoused Project. On that night, he will distribute up to 200 goodie-like gift bags for anyone experiencing homelessness. 

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“I thought New Year’s was the perfect time to do a little something special to just say, ‘Welcome to the year. Here’s a little hug, here’s a little hope, here’s a little handshake to welcome you to the new year,’” he said. 

A ready-to-heat cup of soup, a soft pair of gloves, a new toothbrush, a fresh orange — the items in the bags are intended to bring comfort. And Elliott-Snow has recruited everyone close to him to help pull off the project, though convincing came easy, he said. 

“I’ve got my family working on it. I’ve got friends and neighbors — it’s become very much a community collaborative project,” he said.

Among the project’s supporters are the Lawrence Democratic Socialists of America, who contributed $300 at the project’s launch, and have since solicited donations from the community. 

The Unhoused Project resonated with DSA members because homelessness is an outcome any worker could experience, said Kirby Evers, the group’s secretary. 

“If you’re not productive enough, if you’re not working hard enough, if you’re not doing enough jobs, for minimum wage labor — it’s possible that any of us could end up in that camp and that shelter and so our hearts really do go out to the people who are suffering in those places,” Evers said. “We’d all rather they’d be housed. We’d rather they’d be living fulfilling lives. But that’s not going to happen as long as they’re in the streets, as long as they’re just trying to make ends meet to survive.” 

The project has highlighted the generosity of the Lawrence community, Evers said.

Owners of local shops — including the Raven Book Store, which donated books and stickers, and La Estrella, which donated groceries — have affably contributed. 

“It’s been a spiritual moment of solidarity,” Evers said.

The moment isn’t over yet. For the next couple of days, Elliott-Snow will continue to gather, sort and divide the items for the 200 bags. His living room and garage have been usurped by the undertaking.

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“My home has turned into a warehouse of boxes and boxes and boxes of supplies,” he said. 

Estimating it takes one hour to assemble 20 bags, Elliott-Snow had 40 more bags to fill Friday morning, and contributions continue to come in.

“It’s a way to embrace help and hope for the new year,” he said. 

If someone has something they would like to donate, they can email kevinsouthamerica@gmail.com “and I’ll be glad to pick up and deliver donations within the city of Lawrence,” Elliott-Snow said.

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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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Lawrence Indigenous, queer communities and allies mourn death of nonbinary Oklahoma teen

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Members of Native American and queer Lawrence communities joined in solidarity for a vigil in honor of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma who died this month after suffering injuries from a fight in the girls’ bathroom at school — the bathroom state law required them to use.

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