Medical Community, Businesses Provide Boots, Footcare to Homeless

Jacob Hood, 25, a carpenter from Bellingham who is homeless, laughs when PeaceHealth nurse Carrie Kronberg turns on a rotary hand tool to shave down a callous on his big toe.

Hood laughed when he first saw the tool—one similar to what he uses in carving wood. “I never thought to use it on my feet,” Hood says.

Hood was one of 564 homeless men, women and children who participated in the 11th annual Our Hearts to Your Soles event held in November in Bellingham. Participants received basic foot care, new winter boots, a flu shot and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The event was held at Depot Market Square, where the farmers market is held on Saturdays, and at Agape House, a homeless shelter at Lighthouse Mission.

Fifty medical professionals from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and Cornerstone Prosthetics & Orthotics volunteered to clip toenails, remove calluses, and search for sores or signs of infection on the feet of homeless people living locally in Bellingham. Twenty fit specialists from Superfeet, the worldwide insole and shoe company based in Ferndale, also volunteered to help the homeless get a correctly fitted pair of new boots.

“I can actually feel my feet and not just the pavement,” says Rhashard Dunni, 32, a homeless man who benefited from the fitting.

For someone who’s homeless, a pair of correctly fitted boots can make a world of difference. For some, they can open up new opportunities for employment, simply because they are more equipped. For others, the new shoes can provide needed physical support and comfort. Many come to the yearly event wearing the shoes they received the year prior.

Our Heart to Your Soles is a national non-profit that partners with local and national organizations in different cities to hold these events to provide relief to the homeless populations. In 2018, they organized 25 events across the country.

Bogs Footwear and Red Wing Shoes, two national footwear companies, donated more than 400 pairs of boots to ensure everyone received the right pair.

The No. 1 goal of the event was to provide basic health care to help the participants to prevent serious health issues arising from preventable ailments. All the patients received one free follow-up appointment at Cornerstone Prosthetics & Orthotics for further foot attention.

“This is truly population health,” said Dr. Warren Taranow, event organizer and an orthopedic surgeon at PeaceHealth. “It’s what is going to get them through the wet season.”

With new shoes and clean feet, people like Jacob Hood and Rhashard Dunni found a little solace at the start of the winter season.

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"Participants received basic foot care, new winter boots, a flu shot and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."