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Back on their feet

​​​​​Ice-CleatsWeb.gif Ice-Cleat Distribution Prevents Injuries

An imposing man dressed in many layers enters the Bean’s Cafe dining area, bringing in a blast of cold air as he sits down. His jacket is threadbare but serviceable, and his hat is pulled down over his ears. He wears scuffed, white Bunny Boots and they, too, are huge. At more than 6 feet tall, the man is commanding in stature, but in the most polite voice he asks, “Do you have extra large?” 

A volunteer digs in a box and out comes a pair of ice cleats that she deftly straps to the worn boots. Meant to prevent slips and falls in winter weather, the cleats are part of a larger effort to help Anchorage’s at-risk populations stay healthy and safe. 

“Yeah, that’ll work,” the man says. “Thank you.” 

Sara Penisten, RN, injury prevention outreach coordinator for Providence Health & Services Alaska, says the cleat distribution effort is a simple solution to reducing injuries in vulnerable populations. Thanks to a $5,500 donation, more than 225 pairs of cleats were provided at Bean’s Cafe, while others were distributed to Covenant House’s Passage House, a temporary refuge for pregnant teens, and Clare House, which provides housing for mothers and children to help them get back on their feet. Purchase and distribution of the ice cleats was just one of many efforts to help Alaskans as part of the $58 million in community benefit in 2014. 

Many of Anchorage’s homeless spend the majority of their days outside, walking the often-icy streets and sidewalks and sometimes wearing inadequate footwear. 

“Our trauma registry tracks the injury category of every trauma patient we care for at Providence Alaska Medical Center,” Penisten says. “Falls are the most common mode of injury. Based on our trauma data, we are addressing our highest risk area.” 

During the Bean’s Cafe distribution, held on a cold, icy day in February, scores of vulnerable citizens entered the building to wait for and receive their free cleats. One man, as he sat to be fitted, said he broke his collarbone and ankle after falling on ice the year before. He didn’t have ice cleats then; he wouldn’t make that mistake again.

By the end of the day, 225 pairs of cleats were distributed and fitted onto the patrons. Penisten says she left 40 pairs behind, to be provided on an as-needed basis. 

“This year, we will start a fall campaign to get these to people earlier,” Penisten says. “We have had such an odd winter, but we still always have ice.” 

Of the 119 people who were surveyed before the cleat distribution, only six already owned a pair. A couple of weeks after the distribution, 82 of 122 people surveyed had cleats. “So for pre distribution, 5 percent of patrons had ice cleats,” Penisten says. “And post distribution, 67 percent had them.” 

Michael Collins, Beans Cafe operations manager, says since the ice cleats were distributed, he has continued to see clients use them, and the additional pairs Penisten left behind were put into use rapidly. “Our clients really benefit from them,” he says. “We quickly ran out and even purchased some more ourselves.” 

The cleats are such a small safety effort, yet seem to yield big results – and for someone struggling to get by, even a $10 pair would be out of their reach, Penisten says. Additional cleats were provided to Clare House and Covenant House’s Passage House. 

“As part of our outreach efforts, we train the staff on how to properly fit the cleats,” she says. “Ice cleats are a simple way to build healthy communities together.”