“The worst ongoing thing is the fungus that goes on with people’s feet. It eats away and destroys the toenails and just makes it very hard for people to walk,” said Reverend Bob Book, a Christian clergyman at the Church of the Common Ground. He and his wife, Holly, have set to work cleansing the feet of the homeless in Atlanta.
Each week, 35 people come through his clinic to receive a foot soak, apricot pumice scrub, nail trim, menthol ointment massage, air freshener for their shoes, a dry pair of socks, and even insoles.
This sort of charity is taking off at clinics across America in places like Orlando, Boston, and Nashville — and proponents say it’s about more than just preventing the spread of bacterial foot infections: it’s about self-esteem, too.
Foot Pain & Infections: A Common Problem For America’s Homeless
The American Podiatric Medical Association estimates that over 75 percent of Americans suffer from foot pain or infections. Problems like athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, and trench foot are four times more frequent in the homeless population, according to NBC News. In one study of Boston’s shelter-visiting homeless, 38% had athlete’s foot and 16% had toenail fungus.
“It’s much more than cosmetic; these are really functional problems,” explained Dr. Jessie Gaeta, an internal medicine specialist with the Boston Care for the Homeless clinic for the last 25 years. For diabetic patients, a small callus or blister is likely to become infected, resulting in necrosis that can necessitate amputation.
Foot Problems Related To Several Aspects Of The Homeless Lifestyle
With days on end spent in the same soggy socks and shoes, it’s no surprise fungal and bacterial infections run rampant. Fungus loves to breed in places that are dark, warm, and damp; footwear saturated with sweat is really the preferred environment of athlete’s foot and onychomycosis colonies that fester out of control.
The homeless populace often spends much time on their feet — walking for several days at a time, covering large distances, and injuring their feet with blisters and chafes. One teacher from Florida, who went homeless for a month to raise money for charity, said that he was walking 12 to 15 miles a day, which wore out his brand new shoes so much he needed duct tape to hold them together. The end result of all this walking in chronic heat and tropical humidity in July left him with painful blisters and a nasty case of foot fungus.
Rick Hutchison was once a visitor to the clinic. He spent several years traveling through Kentucky, California and New York — “drinking and drugging” — before straightening his life out. He says that sprucing up the feet of the homeless could motivate them to fix up their lives too — restoring some dignity, giving their spirit a bit of rejuvenation, and providing the motivation to “keep on walking.”
The religious clinics typically provide a basic cleaning service and a prayer. They are not equipped to handle medical issues. However, there are some volunteer nurses at other clinics — like the Boston Health Care for the Homeless program — who give out antifungal foot cream and a little bit more. “They are very grateful and many open up about their hardships. We listen a lot and offer advice and counsel when appropriate,” said nurse Rosemary Daggett. “A few sit for an hour and just talk to us because I imagine they don’t often get that kind of undivided attention.”
SteriShoe UV Shoe Sanitizer: A Step In The Fight Against Fungus Feet
These clinics could also benefit from the use of the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer. When the homeless patients arrive, their shoes can be run through a 45-minute UV shoe sanitizer cycle, which will kill up to 99.9% of the bacteria, viruses and fungus living and breeding there by using the same time of ultraviolet light employed by water treatment plants and hospitals. The end result is sanitary, fresher, drier shoes. Podiatrists across America offer these devices in their offices to patients suffering from athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, diabetic foot ulcers, shoe odor, and plantar’s warts. Try it risk-free for 30 days.