Lawrence backpack drive aims to gather survival supplies for people living outside this summer

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Alex Buzicky recalls watching as Kevin Elliott-Snow brought to the Lawrence Community Shelter dozens upon dozens of bags filled with survival supplies for unhoused people as part of his New Year’s Eve Project. 

“I saw plenty of people carrying around the bags and thanking him,” said Buzicky, a former employee of the shelter.

“I saw people tear up just receiving them, knowing that this came from the community and that people were so kind to, you know, still recognize them as human and know that they need supplies just to survive.”

Inspired by Elliott-Snow’s generosity, Buzicky is launching a summer backpack drive designed to help people living outside overcome the survival challenges they’ll face during the next couple months. 

“Now that summer is here, people experiencing homelessness have different needs,” Buzicky said. 

Collaborating with Elliott-Snow on the project, Buzicky has consulted leaders in the homeless community for supply recommendations. 

Rebecca Harsha, who stays at the unsanctioned camp near the Amtrak station in East Lawrence, suggested first aid items, such as one-time-use antibiotic cream and bandaids. Harsha said smaller amounts would prevent waste, as people living outside often have to take their belongings with them when they leave their campsites and smaller items are easier to transport and more likely to be used.

The first aid supplies can prevent serious infections, Buzicky said. 

“I knew someone who got MRSA last year … and they almost died from it just because they got a scratch in the woods and they didn’t have any ointment,” she said. 

Water bottles, bug spray, sunscreen, aloe vera, AA and AAA batteries, hats and sunglasses are among other much-needed items. 

Buzicky and Elliott-Snow are trying to gather in-kind and monetary donations. 

“We are asking for financial donations through Freefunder in order to purchase many of the supplies needed,” Buzicky said. “We are hoping to reach $2,500 by July 16 so that we can purchase enough supplies to assist people living outdoors as well as people who stay at the Lawrence Community Shelter.” 

People can also bring physical donations from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 22 to Watson Park, 727 Kentucky St. They can also text or call Elliot-Snow (785-505-0039) or Buzicky (480-334-4877) to arrange for items to be picked up. 

More than a bag of supplies, Buzicky hopes to provide a special moment to people experiencing homelessness, like the one she witnessed at New Year’s. 

“I will never forget seeing the guests at the Lawrence Community Shelter sporting the red ‘Fight Poverty, Not the Poor’ buttons from the (Democratic Socialists of America) and utilizing the bags and their contents throughout the winter,” Buzicky said.

“It’s inspiring to see so many members of our community come together to assist our unhoused neighbors.” 

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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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