Homelessness in my town | Teen Ink

Homelessness in my town

December 1, 2021
By DarshPatel15 BRONZE, Reno, Nevada
DarshPatel15 BRONZE, Reno, Nevada
2 articles 6 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." - Albert Einstein

Homelessness in my town

Homelessness is a persistent problem in the United States. The severity of the problem, however, varies by state and locality. Finding the locations with the most serious problems and focusing more attention and more resources on them would result in major reductions in homelessness. The Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) is a report to Congress from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that gives national estimates of homelessness. The AHAR report is based on data from the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) regarding people who have been homeless for at least a year. The Point-in-Time (PIT) count provides a snapshot of housed and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night in January. And it also provides statistics on the inventory of available shelter and accommodation in a community. According to the 2019 AHAR report roughly 568,000 people were experiencing homelessness in America. More than one-thirds of the people were living in unsheltered occasions: abandoned buildings or streets and nearly two-thirds of them were staying in sheltered locations like transitional homes or shelters. Men constituted 61 %, women were 31 % and less than 1% were transgender or gender non-conforming. Three states accounted for more than half of the overall number of people suffering homelessness: California (27%) New York (16%), and Florida (5%).  

With the current pandemic forcing many of us to do our work online from home, I was able to see and understand the patient population at my mother’s place of work. These skilled nursing facilities assist patients in achieving the best possible health outcomes. I was very disturbed by the images I would see repeatedly, while also maintaining strict HIPPA guidelines. The images were of adult feet in a horrific state of gangrene, where blood supply and hence the nutrients to the part of the skin and underlying tissues is cut off. The patients often always ended up with amputation of some or all of their toes. These patients are homeless and without proper shelter, clothing, food supply, and footwear. Many come to the skilled nursing facilities from Acute Hospitals without clothes and a safe place to go. 

This brought back memories of my early days on the ski slopes. I have resided in the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in a beautiful town called Reno since 2014. The stunning star show at night, hiking trails, mountain lakes, and the breathtaking backdrop of lush green mountains make Reno one of the most beautiful places to live. On average it receives 22 inches of snow per year. The snowcapped mountain slopes make it ideal for skiing. I remember getting the taste of the powdery white snow when I was 10 years old. My feet were fitted with the best woolen socks, toe warmers, and ski boots. But some days my feet couldn't tolerate the freezing temperatures and I had to stop skiing with my team and return to the lodge with uncontrollable tears streaming down my cheeks. My toes felt like they were burning and hundreds of little needles were pricking my skin. I also remember once my brother’s fingers froze so badly that he couldn’t play his clarinet for a week.

If we could come this close to getting frostbite, the patients without a roof over their heads and without proper footwear stand little chance of avoiding frostbites. I have made it my mission to do something about it. I have spearheaded a project called “The Soul Shoe Project”, whose goal is to raise awareness about and increase practices to prevent frostbites that can lead to amputations further deteriorating the quality of living. I am aiming to raise money by selling T-Shirts that I designed. Proceeds of the sales go 100% to purchasing winter boots for the homeless. I also want to bring strong governmental and community awareness and eradicate amputation secondary to frostbites in the homeless population. It is a start and I hope that I can make this a national campaign. If you live in a climate with the potential for frostbite from harsh winters, I urge you to do something to help the ones in need.


(1) Data collected from HUD: AHAR  and PIT 2019 reports

(2) The Soul Show Project Website: thesoulshoeproject.com/

(3) Bibliography:

HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development)

AHAR ( Annual Homeless assessment report)

PIT (Point in time)



Cities such as Reno have harsh winter climates that put the homeless at risk of severe frostbite and amputation. Based on the 2019 AHAR report it is said that roughly 568.000 people are homeless and a large portion of which live in cold climates and do not have shelter or winter shoes. My project, The Soul Shoe Project, will use all the money it raises from selling t-shirts to buy the homeless community pairs of winter boots.

The author's comments:

Darsh is an 11th-grade student at The Davidson Academy, a dual enrollment school at the University of Nevada, pursuing higher-level university courses in computer science, mathematics, statistics, and economics. Additionally, he is taking history and English courses at his high school. Despite his rigorous academic pursuits, Darsh finds time to encourage his school and his community to recycle batteries, so far he has helped stop approximately 150 pounds of used batteries from ending up in the landfill by recycling with the Big Green Box. He tutors math, statistics, and economics at the UNR Math Center. Positively impacting the community around him, he is spearheading a project to ensure the homeless population in Reno has access to winter boots crucial to avoid becoming the victims of frostbites which can lead to amputation of toes or even legs.  Darsh is determined to make this project a success at the national level no matter how long it takes.

Darsh has always been involved in community service. In 8th grade, he received the presidential silver medal for his hours of volunteering at Lemelson Elementary, a Title 2 school, in Reno, where he inspired students to be their best. He tutored mathematics and taught them how to play chess, even more, so he was a big brother to many of the students who did not have very stable family lives. He has spent hours cleaning used books and getting them shelf ready for the local Reno schools. Darsh also volunteers his summer hours teaching chess at the local library. Darsh is a longtime volunteer at the Northern Nevada Math Center and is also a member of their fund-raising committee. Darsh has been involved in teaching and writing the curriculum for “Teaching Mathematics through Chess” NNVM summer camps. Darsh was a member of the 2021 State of Nevada Mathematics Championship Level 4 team which won 1st Place. He has won numerous awards in mathematics competitions at the local and national level. Most notable is his 1st Place national finish in the individual Math Kangaroo contest.

It would not be a complete picture of Darsh without mentioning his deep love for art and his creative ways to express and explore the art around him. He is a winning photographer, Fine Art America Artist, and creates art from recycled materials and materials found in nature. He also designed the logo for his high school apparel. His abstract submission “The Mathematics of Fractal Art: Using a Derived Cubic Method and the Julia Programming Language to Make Fractal Zoom Videos” was accepted by the World Academy of Science Engineering and Technology. This project illustrates how practical techniques used for scientific visualization can also have an artistic side. 

To know Darsh is to know his multifaceted curiosity for the world around him. He
is passionate and determined to provide his best, whether he is tackling the hardest academic courses, volunteering his time to teach, creating and admiring art, building creations from recycled materials, engineering projects, rock climbing, camping in the wilderness, becoming an open water scuba certified diver, helping his community recycle, leading his school chess team to compete in the state chess tournament, or attempting to assist homeless residents who are suffering in the harsh winter weather in Reno.

Darsh believes in protecting the most marginalized members of our society, young and poor, by being compassionate and putting himself out there to highlight their plight and inviting others to be a part of the solution. Please consider purchasing from the Soul Shoe Project store and helping homeless person protect their feet through a harsh winter out there in the open.

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