Simply The Basics is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the homeless with basic hygiene products. On July 23, 2018, the Aquis Team spent a fun afternoon with Simply the Basics filling mildew resistant hygiene bags that included toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, combs, and soaps. Prior to our volunteer day, we reached out to First Aid Beauty and Cora Organics who both generously donated hygiene products. First Aid Beauty donated their Ultra Repair Moisturizer, Cora Organics donated their 100% organic cotton tampons, and AQUIS, Inc. donated AQUIS Adventure body towels.
Our host for the afternoon was Phylicia Hisel, Program Assistant at Simply The Basics. Phylicia explained that Simply the Basics operates purely on a volunteer basis and counts on volunteers to run all aspects of the organization as well as to fill and pass out the hygiene kits. Hosteling International - San Francisco Downtown allows Simply the Basics to use their space to pack these hygiene kits, and we spent several hours in their sunny, upper floor kitchen filling hygiene bags until we ran out of product.
Meghan Freebeck, founder of Simply the Basics, answered a few questions for us about her organization and what inspired her to start Simply the Basics and educate others on the necessity to fulfill basic hygiene needs for the homeless.
Aquis: What Inspired you to start Simply The Basics?
Meghan: Upon moving to San Francisco from Chicago, I was working with SF Suicide Prevention. San Francisco is a wonderful city in a lot of ways, but as a newcomer from Chicago, I really struggled to find the beauty in it when I was struggling so much with the experience of so many of its inhabitants living on the streets. I was leaving a crisis center every day and feeling worse about the community I walked out to; that stomach churning feeling was not going away on its own, so I decided to do something about it.
I began with a menstrual hygiene drive to engage with the community and provide a basic human need. From there, we studied the needs of the community that was not easily met, surveyed nonprofits that helped our homeless neighbors already to ensure we weren't duplicating but rather building upon their Missions, and with Maslovs' Hierarchy of Needs as the basis of our programs - we founded the first national hygiene bank.
Aquis: Can you tell us more about the issue of homelessness in San Francisco and throughout the nation.
Meghan: Studies have shown that when a person is experiencing homelessness, others begin to disassociate them from being "human". We need to remember that these are our very neighbors, our community, and there is a great need for compassion. For many reasons, we cannot always immediately provide a home, but we can provide a smile and some comfort to people in need.
Aquis: What is Simply The Basics’ ultimate goal?
Meghan: To provide basic human needs to people experiencing homelessness so that they can focus on greater goals, such as housing and employment. To save nonprofits time and resources so that their teams are better able to achieve their goals. And to improve the physical health and dignity of our community through hygiene and compassion.
Aquis: What has been the most difficult thing about starting Simply The Basics?
Meghan: Finding the time. I was still working full time elsewhere (and still am!) so this became my early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Every moment had to become dedicated and creative, such as taking "walking meetings" on the phone between meetings for my regular job, or delivering hygiene kits at 6am or over my lunch breaks. At one point I was inviting friends over for "brunch" as a ruse to have support packing kits and sorting through hygiene items!
Aquis: How can people help?
Meghan: It is pretty simple! We need time and funds. If you are able to give a monetary donation, a small amount goes a very long way as a volunteer based nonprofit. 100% of donations go to programs, and it helps especially because it allows us to get people what they need immediately and gives people choice (rather than choosing for them). Our second need is time! Join us as a volunteer or host a hygiene drive, you can learn more on our website. http://www.simplythebasics.org/