Foot Washing and Talking at the Emergency Shelter 

The last of Seattle’s emergency homeless shelters were set to close Friday, February 22, as overnight temperatures hovered just above the freezing mark.

The day before the closure, Full Life Care set up a foot-washing station at the Garfield Community Center emergency shelter. Two University of Washington nursing students, along with Full Life staff from our Foundational Community Supports, Health Home and Solstice Behavioral Health programs attended.

It was a good time to connect with a population that is normally spread out and difficult to reach. Individuals who are homeless often struggle with trusting “the system” and those who work in it.

A behavioral health counselor walked around and talked to people. She sat and talked with folks about their mental health and chemical dependency. She listened as they cried, speaking about abuse, and their lives living in tents.

The UW students had tubs of warm water, and as they soaped up and massaged the individual’s feet and calves, they chatted. They talked about the weather and laughed about coming across Seattle’s noted haunted locations. They talked about one man’s military service and his injuries and surgery.

The talk steered toward more concerning matters.

“Do you have a safe place to sleep?”

“How is your health?”

“How is your mental health?”

“Do you know how to find help?”

For some, it takes time to come around to asking for help. A few people were ready to at least talk. To hear how to get help with finding a steady home. To hear about the mental health services.

At the end of the day, Solstice Behavioral Health had a handful of referrals to follow up on.

After the foot washing was done and the moisturizing lotion was amply applied, the recipients thanked the nursing students.

“You’re the first person to touch my feet in a long time, since I was at Western State,” Washington’s psychiatric hospital, one said. “That was really nice. Thank you.”

The nursing students talked to him about contacting his caseworker at the Veteran’s Administration for a checkup.

“Ah! That feels good,” said another recipient. “It’s tingly!”

After his foot wash, he went out to speak with our Foundational Community Supports and Health Home staff to fill out a referral form. He’s ready to find a steady place to live.