New Shoes Help Homeless Men, Women and Children in San Diego Get a Fresh Start

A new pair of shoes is a basic need that can seem like a luxury for those who can’t afford them. Something as simple as footwear that many take for granted can mean a lot to those who don’t have them.

To help meet this fundamental necessity, UnitedHealthcare recently donated 300 pairs of new athletic shoes through a $22,000 grant to the men, women and children at the San Diego Rescue Mission — a nonprofit organization that provides shelter to those in need. The new shoes will help families get a fresh start and live a healthier lifestyle.

For Monica, having a new pair of shoes made a world of difference and gave her newfound confidence.

“It means a lot,” she said. “There were many times where I had to wear flip flops because I didn’t have tennis shoes. I’m grateful to have a pair of new shoes that fit me.”

As a client at the San Diego Rescue Mission, Monica is grateful for the shelter’s resources, which has been helping men, women and children experiencing homelessness by providing a holistic approach to rehabilitation and recovery for the past 65 years.

Another client, Jena, was overcome with emotion when presented with her brand new shoes.

“Providing people who wouldn’t be able to afford new shoes means so much. We really appreciate it,” she said.

UnitedHealthcare employee volunteers joined California Assembly Member Todd Gloria, San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward and Kevin Kandalaft, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of California, to help the clients with sizing and distribution of the new athletic shoes. It’s one way the Rescue Mission works to help an ever-growing population in need.

Housing insecurity and homelessness has become a growing core health issue in California, despite wellness improvements and increased access to care over the past 10 years. According to the 2019 America’s Health Rankings, California faces one of the highest rates of homeless family households in the United States, ranking 42nd for severe housing problems. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population lives in California, with San Diego County ranking as the fourth largest homeless region in the state.

Housing insecurity poses complex challenges to those impacted and community resources can be crucial to meeting vital needs like hunger and providing stability. Because the needs go beyond shelter and food, community compassion and assistance, such as the shoe donation by UnitedHealthcare, can impact the lives of those who need it most.