By Katta Hules
In addition to their traditional equipment, Arcadia Firefighters are now carrying Hope Packages for the homeless on their rigs. “A Hope Package is a backpack with a blanket, socks, hygiene kit, water bottle, and an information card with helpful services information in L.A County. We hope that these supplies will meet some basic needs and provide a benefit for those receiving them,” says Arcadia Firefighters Association President Brian Ursetti.
The idea came from Firefighter Gary Robinson, who, last Christmas, gave out supplies to the homeless with his family. “At this point in my career and in life, I have pretty much everything that I need and we wanted to give back and I wanted to show my kids that giving spirit.”
Robinson was inspired to bring the idea to his fellow firefighters by the number of homeless people he encountered when responding to 9-1-1 calls. Supported by the Firefighters Association, Robinson put together the packages with the help of Firefighter Richard Olivarez and Passion, a community of homelessness outreach groups. Passion provided them with blankets and hygiene kits including a toothbrush, mouthwash, toothpaste and soap. On Ursetti’s suggestion, they also procured the sponsorship of the local REI, which supplied them with water bottles and socks.
They then took it to Fire Chief Mike Lang and the command staff of the Arcadia Fire Department who were “elated to be involved,” says Robinson. Three packages have been placed on each front-line apparatus truck to be handed out at the discretion of the firefighters aboard and replenished as needed.
A recent count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority showed forty-seven thousand people considered to be homeless in Los Angeles County, a 5.7 percent increase from 2015. Over three thousand members of the homeless population were in the San Gabriel area. “They’re at a point in their life where they’ve hit bottom,” says Robinson. “[With the Hope Packages] we just want to meet people where they’re at, no questions asked.”
Ursetti hopes the packages will “provide something tangible and beneficial to those in need. We take great pride in serving this community. That means anyone and everyone within its borders.”
He also hopes to inspire similar “acts of compassion” in other fire departments, community organizations and the public at large. Additionally, they are working with the Arcadia Police Department to get Hope Packages to people in need.
Robinson thinks the packages will be “an asset to the community” and hopes the idea spreads. “We’re not going to solve the homeless problem … it’s just a token or a gesture of kindness to give someone hope.”
Uresetti calls the Hope Packages “a wonderful expression of compassion and care,” saying he is “honored to work alongside some amazing men and women that are always looking for ways to go above and beyond.”
Though the program is well supplied, Robinson says they are accepting donations. To enquire about donations, contact Gary Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To recommend someone receive a Hope Package, email Brian Ursetti at Affa3440@gmail.com.