LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — What prompts someone to wash the feet of a homeless person? To sit or kneel before them and wipe away the dirt and grime of street life?
Steve Flores calls it the ultimate act of humility. But the chief executive of North Las Vegas’ Hope Christian Health Center admits there’s an ulterior motive to such a gesture. When his volunteers wash the feet of the homeless Friday at the Courtyard Homeless Center, Flores is looking to identify health issues, and, perhaps more importantly, make a connection.
“It’s twofold,” Flores says of Hands of Hope Day, the health center’s second foot wash of the homeless. “We’re a health care clinic, so we want to reach the marginalized, those who don’t have access to care.
“Then, with the Christian act of washing feet, we want to show we’re there to serve them. We’re seeking the underserved, so they know we’re there to help”
Washing another’s feet is a Christian custom that dates to Jesus, Flores says. Christ washed the feet of his apostles before The Last Supper. St. Luke wrote that Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet at the House of Simon, one of the Pharisees.
From a health standpoint, examining feet can reveal issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. On hand Friday at the washing site — 314 Foremaster Lane, across the street from Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Las Vegas Boulevard North — will be a team of doctors and health care professionals to provide more in-depth care, Flores says. Legacy Insurance and MDX Labs also are providing assistance.
“There’s just something about it,” Flores says of the washing of another’s feet. “People who everyday have frowns, and then, as their feet are getting washed, there is something in their eyes and their faces brighten with smiles.
“It is so humbling. You say, ‘Oh, my God, what these people go through.’ And you’ve just given them value. Suddenly, they’re not just seen as homeless.”
Flores says the entire service also allows his nonprofit, a faith-based Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) to establish trust. “They know if they have an issue with their health, that we’re here, that they can turn to us,” he says.
The Hands of Hope Day feet washing runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Flores has about 200 pairs of shoes and socks to hand out, too. During the center’s first washing of feet, the day before Thanksgiving, about 150 pairs of feet were washed by some 40-50 volunteers.
He expects about the same turnout Friday, and he hopes to continue to hold two such events each year — one near Thanksgiving and the other on Good Friday. (This year, the Eastertime session was rescheduled to Friday because of nearby construction issues.)
Some other nonprofits will be on hand, Flores says, to provide goody bags with more socks, maybe some sanitizers and adult wipes.
And in return, Flores says, there’s the chance at building trust. And, of course, maybe you’ll see smiles replacing frowns.