How the grocery bags you only use once can be reused to help the homeless community

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – After a trip to the grocery store, you might have a handful of grocery bags you don’t have a need for. One Utah woman is working with volunteers in the community to help make a difference for the homeless.

On Tuesday, Bags to Bed founder Kaitlin McLean partnered with 142 Smith’s Food and Drug stores in seven states, donating 600 hours of volunteer time to turning these plastic bags into sleeping mats.

“The truth is that people all over the place need these mats,” McLean says. “They could benefit from them, they can use this – what would be waste for something very, very productive.”

McLean says it takes three-to-five-hundred plastic bags to make a bed and with the help of volunteers everywhere, people can make a difference in their community.

“I hope that we make so many beds that every person who needs one has one,” McLean says. “But indirectly, I hope people take away from this project if you want to make an impact, you don’t have to have large sums of money, you don’t have to have lots of free time.”

In downtown Salt Lake City, Jennifer Jensen is walking around, pushing her shopping cart that has some food, her personal belongings and her month-old Bags to Bed.

Jensen has been on the streets for six years and after receiving her mat, she says it’s a piece of home.

“It’s like a bed, like a blanket,” Jensen says. “So, it will keep you warm, it will keep you cool.”

The beds made out of plastic bags roll up and tie together, which is beneficial for people like Jensen.

“It stays together,” Jensen says. “You can put blankets on top of it and roll it up like a sleeping bag.”

One of Jensen’s “street sisters,” Blanca Miranda, says she has some friends who have a Bag to Bed and says having them has helped her community out a lot.

“It’s really light, it’s a multi-use,” Miranda says. “I mean, you could probably use it for shade on a hot day.”

Miranda says the city does not allow tarps – as it is considered camping – and so these mats help in a variety of ways.

For more about the Bags to Bed organization and how you can get involved click here.

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