Rick Swyden, Midwest City resident and homeless advocate, said for him, helping the less fortunate is a test of goodwill.
Ever since he and his wife began Hotdogs for the Homeless in January 2003, their organization has given out 118,635 hot dogs to people living on Oklahoma City streets.
“They’ve just been out there, (so) they get acclimated to it. But still it’s just very, very bad out there,” Swyden said. “We’re just out there for a little bit with them, and we’re drenched with sweat. I just can’t imagine that’s their living conditions.”
Hotdogs for the Homeless serves between 200 and 300 donated hot dogs — and even treats such as lemonade and cookies — for a few hours each Sunday afternoon on city streets, often in triple-degree heat. It also provides other services, including bicycle repair, gas money for gas, prescription payments, hygiene kits and clothing donations.
Swyden said he is always looking for either food or monetary donations to maintain his charity work. Volunteers come and go through a revolving door, varying from weekly regulars to Sunday church groups to local student organizations.
“It’s just pretty much my way of life. I know most all of the homeless (people), at least by face. I treat them like anybody else, like absolutely normal,” he said. “I don’t care what they look like, smell like — I give them a hug, whatever it takes.”
How to help
Released in January, Oklahoma City’s annual “Point-in-Time” survey reported 1,221 homeless people in the area, totaled from those in shelters, in transitional housing and outside shelters. Also reported were 80 homeless families with children.
Summer items needed include umbrellas, sunscreen, sunglasses, ChapStick, hats, towels, washcloths, flip-flops and bottled water, according to City Rescue Mission, a faith-based nonprofit shelter offering relief to the homeless through men’s and women’s shelter centers, food and social services. Donated items can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at City Rescue Mission, 800 W. California.
Photo by Mark Hancock