A “Homeless” Vet
Meet my favorite bag lady, Suzanne Parisien Frank, French Canadian born artist, who happens to be related to me by marriage. Some months back, she overheard a fellow at a local retail store asking for extra plastic bags…more, More and MORE of them. She inquired. He said he was making plastic mats from grocery store bags for homeless veterans to put under their sleeping bags as insulation from the wet ground.
A natural artist who is constantly busy forming creations with her hands, her curiosity led to more questions. How do you do this? What’s the process? How big are they? What do you do with them?
Word spread. This evolved into a house party, but not the kind with chips and Margueritas. The man from the store, Tim Brown, graciously agreed to visit our home, which developed more invitations to other lady friends who showed an interest in this project. Suzanne recorded the event on video as he went through each stage, step by step, which entailed the flattening and cutting of bags into strips and then using a large needle to crochet the “Plarn” (plastic yarn) into a blanket of sorts which eventually measured six feet by four feet and provided ground cover and/or insulation for homeless men and women who sleep outdoors, targeting in particular, veterans of our armed forces.
It takes five-hundred standard plastic grocery bags and approximately twenty-five hours to make one mat.
Suzanne has since spent hundreds of hours multi-tasking before the television set while creating a dozen of the mats, and she is still at it. Along the way, she has inspired a number of other women to do the same, which to-date, has resulted in another dozen or so mats for homeless veterans. She has also visited senior living facilities to teach the process to eager participants. Friends and associates have been graciously donating their plastic bags from Publix, Winn-Dixie, Targets and Walmart.
Besides forming the Plarn mat, Suzanne also adds a slip-pocket which allows the mat to be folded into a pillow, plus straps for carrying on the back.
On or before Christmas day, Suzanne (and I) will be volunteering at an event in Brevard County called Warm-Full-Safe, which provides a donated motel room for two nights for fifty homeless veterans. The vets will receive the new Plarn mats at that time, probably twenty-five to thirty. Suzanne is extremely grateful to Tim Brown, and to all the ladies who participated in the project. They know who they are.
It’s her way of showing gratitude for veterans of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force who have risked their lives so that we can live the good life, only to find themselves at the bottom of the love chain when it was all over.
Sure, many become drug addicts, alcoholics, or suffer from mental illness. But they are still human, and they have served all of us. If ever there were people in need of entitlements, they are our veterans who ask for little, other than what’s on their crude, corrugated signs at the intersection outside Walmart.
This can be done by anyone with desire and patience, and skills of crochet. If there are folks interested in a copy of the instructional video, advise me by e-mail ( MLF283@aol.com) and I will send information. To cover overhead costs of shipping and handling, we will ask for a small contribution. Rest assured, this is not a profit making endeavor.
Suzanne holding a Plarn Mat
Homeless model, in his home