Paul Wellman

Touching a person’s bare feet is nothing like shaking their hand. It’s intimate, whether the feet are pampered and polished or banged up and callused. Imagine then washing the feet of a stranger. Imagine the stranger slept in a doorway every night, didn’t take regular showers, maybe had a drinking problem or mental illness.

That’s what happened over and over again on Thursday, April 21st, at the Fourth Annual Homeless Foot Washing event. Volunteers from up and down Santa Barbara’s economic strata sat at foot washing stations in the Veteran’s Memorial Building, while homeless or otherwise needy individuals lowered their feet into sudsy tubs of water to have them washed, clipped, moisturized and tucked into clean, white pairs of cotton socks.

“Oh man, this is so nice. That is so great,’ said homeless veteran Donald when volunteer Debbie McQuade put a new sock on his right foot.

“Are you going to put on your new shoes, or stay in your old shoes?” she asked.

That was the other part of the Foot Washing event—new pairs of shoes were given out to any homeless or economically disadvantaged person needing them. Lunch was also served.

Donald, who had baby blue eyes, light brown hair and looked around 50, got a brand new pair of construction boots. He didn’t want to wear them out though.

McQuade and Donald had already been chatting for fifteen minutes when I began listening in to their conversation. He told McQuade about the visit his mother and sister made to Santa Barbara a few weeks earlier to see him, and how it had been tough on them all, given his homelessness and severe dependence on alcohol. He said he’d been in the Veterans Affairs hospital recently for 41 days. Though he got sober, the shakes never completely stopped. To read more, see


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