Think back to when you were nine years old: what were your biggest concerns at the time? Whether you could sit next to your best friend in class? That you would do well in your next piano recital? Why your parents didn’t agree that a bag of candy wasn’t a suitable option for your lunch?
As kids, most of our worries were reasonably self-centered. We didn’t yet know or understand much about the world outside of our immediate circle and our own needs, wants and desires.
This was not the case for Hailey Fort of Bremerton, Washington. From a young age, she saw the world differently than most.
Homes for the Homeless
Hailey, who is now 14, was just five years old the first time she asked her mom if they could buy a homeless man a sandwich. Soon after, she began growing vegetables in her home garden to donate to her local food bank. (1)
Her philanthropic efforts didn’t stop there, though. As she got older, she often thought about how privileged she was to have a roof over her head on those cold, rainy Washington days. Having a warm home to live in is something many of us take for granted, especially children.
“It just doesn’t seem right that there are homeless people. I think everyone should have a place to live.” Hailey told King 5 News. (1)
These are 8×4-foot structures that have windows to let sunlight in, a front door that locks, and are insulated in an eco-friendly manner: using recycled jeans. Hailey primarily builds these little homes by herself under the guidance of her grandfather, a professional contractor, and the help of adults when power tools are involved. (1, 2, 3)
Hailey sees the homeless as people
Hailey has a big heart, that much is certain. The main difference, however, between Hailey and the rest of society, is that when she looks at a homeless person, she sees a person. A human with a name who has hopes and dreams, but who has come across hard times.
The first home she built was for her friend Edward. After being let go from his job at the local supermarket, Edward lost his home.
“He’s really nice,” Hailey says. “I don’t want him to be rained on by all the bad weather we get here.” (1)
Hailey customizes each home to suit the person she is giving it to, such as her friend Billy Ray who is in a wheelchair, or her friend who owns a dog named Tonka. (3)
Working with the community
Hailey has received plenty of donated materials for her houses. She and her mom are also working with the city to ensure the homes won’t cause problems. The law states that the houses are allowed to be placed on church property, so they are partnering with local churches to make sure that the new homeowners have a safe place to live. (3)
Hailey doesn’t stop at housing
It is Hailey’s belief that everyone deserves the right to basic human necessities. She hasn’t just stopped at housing and fresh, healthy foods. She also set herself the lofty goal of collecting 1000 toiletries, 500 feminine hygiene products, and 100 winter coats to her local shelter. (1, 2, 3)
How you can help
Five years later, Hailey’s GoFundMe page is still actively accepting donations. We can all learn something from Hailey’s story as well. While you may not have the time or skills to build tiny homes for the less fortunate in your town, you can still make a difference. Purchase someone a meal, donating gently used clothing, volunteer at a shelter or community group.
The more of us who follow in Hailey’s footsteps and start treating homeless people with dignity and respect, the sooner we can end the stigma surrounding homelessness and addictions and begin making changes to end the cycle of poverty.
While her Facebook page, Haily’s Harvest, has not posted much since last year. It seems Haily is still up to committing her self to amazingly selfless deeds.