SAN DIEGO – When you look at the hats that members of the Dharma Bum Temple Homeless Hats Project group knitted to help protect homeless San Diego residents from the winter cold, you can see the care and the knowledge- do in each row sewn evenly. You can see it in the elegantly simple designs and calming color palettes.
You can even see it in the title of the project, which the group hopes to conjure up images of impatient hats looking for a head to call home.
What you can’t see is the heart behind each hat. But whether you are the knitter or the carrier, you know he’s there. You can feel it.
“There’s something really special about thinking of who is going to get it and sending them the warmth of the hat and the warmth of our good wishes,” Skyline knitter Jackie Davis said on a recent call. Zoom in with some of his colleagues. the group members.
“You put the two together, and it weaves hope and goodwill right into every stitch.”
Like many byproducts of the pandemic, the Homeless Hats Project was created to make sense of the virtual void. When the Dharma Bum Temple Closed its physical space in March 2020, the University Heights-based American Buddhist Temple was able to host many of its meditation offerings, classes and support programs online.
The temple’s in-person community efforts – including its prison awareness program and service-oriented Dharma Bum Life program – were a different story. When the temple closed, these programs were postponed indefinitely.
But the spirit of the Dharma Bum temple could not live only on the screens.
In January 2021, temple co-founder Jeffrey Zlotnik led a brainstorming session to come up with ideas on COVID awareness programs. Aletha Thomson, former medical and psychiatric social worker at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, had an idea.
Thomson remembered the plastic loom she used to make simple knitted hats for some of her homeless patients in the emergency room, and she thought that maybe knitting hats would be a good pandemic project.
She was right.
“It’s wonderful because we can do it safely at home in our free time, and we can put in as much time and effort as possible,” said Thomson from his home in Poway. “I thought this would be a great way to virtual volunteer. “
In March 2021, the Homeless Hats Project’s first “Knit and Sit” reunion was called to order on Zoom. Since then, members have been making hats – sometimes accompanied by scarves.
“What really strikes me is that this project was born out of a brainstorming session,” Zlotnik said. “It became something created from nothing. It was just an idea, and during the pandemic it became something that people feel good about doing.”
In their first few months, the Homeless Hats group met online every Sunday afternoon. When the temple resumed offering in-person activities, the first Sunday of the month became a hybrid meeting, with some members meeting in person at the temple and others on Zoom.
No matter where the knitters are, the schedule remains the same. Meditate first. Knit second. Always smile.
“We spend a lot of time laughing. We do a five minute meditation, and then there’s a lot of stuff, “How do you do this?” How do you do this? And when someone new shows up, we try to get them started on the loom. A kindergarten child can do it on a loom, ”Thomson’s sister-in-law, Jean Anderson, said from her home in Scripps Ranch.
“We just started giving them out a few weeks ago, and it was so exciting. Pairing the Homeless Hat with the person who could really use that hat, there’s a special joy in that.”
Over the past year, knitters have perfected their creative process. They learned that many of their wearers prefer subdued colors over anything too eye-catching, that wool / acrylic blend yarns are durable and easy to work with, and children’s hats are also needed. (There may also be pet sweaters in their future.)
During the past cold weeks, members of the San Diego Buddhist Temple, Father Joe’s villages, the San Diego River Park Foundation and San Diego Jewish Family Service distributed the Dharma Bum temple hats to homeless people across the county. Over 300 hats have been distributed to date, including 90 hats that came out on a single Sunday.
Less than a year ago, the Homeless Hats Project did not exist. Now, it’s a source of community, friendship, laughter, and multiple layers of physical and emotional warmth. It sounds like a triumph, but for the knitters behind the hats, it’s just a glorious start.
Which is even better.
“I plan to do this until my hands fall off,” said Lauren DuBois of University Heights, who had never knitted before joining the Homeless Hats Project.
“In this group, we’re all working for the same thing, and it’s a more compassionate and kind community and world. These hats are just a small part of it.”
For more information on the Dharma Bum Temple Homeless Hats Project, including the project’s Amazon Wish List, visit thedharmabums.org/the-homeless-hats-project