As a nurse for nearly 30 years at Jackson Health System in Miami, Oliver Castellanos has noticed that many of his patients are homeless.
Far too often he says he’s seen homeless patients released from the hospital without even the barest of necessities.
“At times, all they were discharged with was the paper gown they were provided while being treated,” he said.
Wanting to help, Castellanos figured out that clothes and shoes would be most beneficial to these men and women. So he started a collection at the hospital of clothing and shoes from his home that he was planning to give away.
“It began with a small pile,” he said. “But it continued to grow bigger and bigger.”
News about his project spread, and Castellanos’ small clothing pile is now a full-scale closet in the Discharge Lounge Area of Jackson Memorial, overflowing with clothing, shoes and accessories.
His donors include co-workers at the hospital and Castellanos’ biggest supporters – his fellow churchgoers at City Church in nearby Homestead.
“My mission resonates with others,” he said. “People contribute because it means they have a hand in bettering the community. They feel like they are doing something tangible to help others.”
Castellanos knew he was making a difference when he gave a pair of shoes to a man whose shoes had been misplaced.
“He got emotional,” he recalled. “The man smiled and explained that the shoes he was receiving were far better than the ones he had walked in with.”
Castellanos has no plans to stop stocking the closet and clothing other patients in need.
“We are all human beings, all brothers and sisters,” he said. “We have to help each other out.”