Danielle Brown of Poulsbo knows what it’s like to be homeless and cold in the winter.
She was homeless for 11 years.
Now given a second chance thanks to a state trooper giving her a job at his Poulsbo farm seven years ago, Brown wants to help others living her old life.
She is working with Tracy Bigano of Coffee Oasis to collect new or slightly used warm clothes to give to the homeless.
“They are cold; they don’t care” if the clothes are used or not, Brown said.
It’s so hard being homeless, but especially so in winter, she said, adding she had frostbite more than once.
“Morning seems like it’s never going to come,” she said, adding a few times she was ready to give up and didn’t care if morning came. “If it weren’t for the kindness of other people I would not be here,” she said.
Brown said she never thought she’d be homeless. “Never in a million years.” She was a stay-at-home mom with stepkids and even foster kids. She had her own business and lived in a $350,000 home with a water view.
“Then everything fell apart. It can happen to anybody. It happens all the time,” she said. True, some people choose to be homeless and some are drug addicts, she said, but others are there because of circumstances, and it’s only getting worse because of all the economic problems caused by COVID-19. So many are just “one paycheck away from being on the street.”
“It doesn’t matter why” people are homeless, Brown said. “Either way they’re all cold in the winter.”
Brown was helped by a retired state patrol officer who needed help on his farm after his wife died. “I got a hand up,” she said. After getting back on her feet Brown bought a mobile home and now has her own place on his property.
She said he was the only person who never wanted anything from her except hard work. She said people use each other when they’re homeless because they are desperate to survive. Elderly who are homeless don’t have any options, while young kids, especially girls, get messed up by their limited options and make hard choices, she said.
Brown said it’s so hard to get out of that life. It’s hard to get a job because you don’t have a home address, a phone or a place to shower. You can’t get a hot coffee, don’t have a place to change out of wet clothes and no place to lay your head. “You don’t really eat or sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.” People who knew her before wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street, let alone help her, she said.
But just when she was about ready to give up on humanity, someone would step up. Once, when she said she was about ready to step in front of a moving truck, she locked eyes with an elderly couple. They bought food for her and gave her a place to stay. “I never saw them again,” she said, adding they were like guardian angels. “There are people who go above and beyond.”
She wants people who are homeless to know there are others who care. That’s why she and Bigano are collecting coats, gloves, hats, socks, scarves, blankets and anything else that can keep homeless warm at all Coffee Oasis facilities at least through the holidays and possibly beyond.
“As long as donations keep coming in I’ll keep passing them out. We’re not going to run out of people.”
Brown said she’s not really looking for monetary donations, but they recently received $1,000 anonymously.
She’s telling everyone she knows that this is what she wants for Christmas – not presents or cards or a big dinner.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “The only thing that can put hope back in your heart is people. This is going to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
Drop off donations at any Coffee Oasis or call Bigano at 360-994-8145 or Brown at 360-930-2337.