20 Ways to Help People Who are Homeless or People In Need
The world of people who are homeless seems very far from ours — but in some ways it is quite near. For many of us, the loss of a job, the death of a spouse or a child or a severe physical disability could be the route to total despair. These are the very tragedies that have happened to many people who end up homeless. Struck by personal tragedies, some people have lost their homes and been deserted by the families and friends they once had. There are many ways you can prevent and/or end homelessness today. No matter what your skills, age or resources, there are ways you can make a difference for people who are homeless and others who are at- risk of homelessness. Take a look at some suggestions below.
- Understand people who are homeless – Help dispel the stereotypes about people who are homeless. Learn about the different reasons for homelessness, and remember, every situation is unique.
- Educate yourself about people who are homeless – A person who is homeless may be someone who lost his job, a runaway youth, or someone with a mental illness. One of the first steps in helping people who are homeless is to see them as individuals and to find out what they need. Notice them; talk to them and listen.
- Respect people who are homeless as individuals – Give people who are homeless the same courtesy and respect you would accord your friends, your family, your employer. Treat them as you would wish to be treated if you needed assistance.
- Respond with kindness – We can make quite a difference in the lives of people who are homeless when we respond to them, rather than ignore or dismiss them. Try a kind word and a smile.
- Volunteer or contribute money, food, clothing, household goods and other resources to homeless shelters, homeless programs or community based emergency food and financial assistance organizations.
- Take a little extra food along – It’s as simple as taking a few extra sandwiches when you go out. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer him or her something to eat. If you take a lunch, pack a little extra.
- Donate money – One of the most direct ways to aid people who are homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations go a long way.
- Donate toys – Children living in shelters have few possessions. Parents who are homeless have more urgent demands on what little money they have, such as food and clothing. Donate toys, books, and games to family shelters. For special holidays, ask your friends and co-workers to buy and wrap gifts for children who are homeless.
- Volunteer at a shelter – Shelters thrive on the work of volunteers, from those who sign people in, to those who serve meals, to others who counsel people who are homeless on where to get social services. A shelter can be as little as a place to sleep out of the rain or as much as a step forward to self-sufficiency.
- Volunteer to serve food – homeless shelters and other local nonprofit organizations provide one of the basics of life, nourishing meals for those who are homeless and others in need in our community. Volunteers generally do much of the work, including picking up donations of food, preparing meals, serving it, and cleaning up afterward. To volunteer your services, contact your local shelter, food bank, Hypothermia center and/or religious center.
- Volunteer your professional services – You can help people who are homeless with your on-the- job talents and skills. Those with clerical skills can train those with little skills. Doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and dentists can treat the homeless in clinics. Lawyers can help with legal concerns.
- Share your hobbies – Wherever your hobbies may be – cooking, repairing, gardening, and photography, you can use them to improve the quality of life for people who are homeless. Through hobbies, you can teach useful skills and introduce new avocations.
- Volunteer for follow-up programs – Some people who are homeless may need help with fundamental tasks such as paying bills, balancing a household budget, or cleaning. Follow-up programs to give further advice, counseling, and other services need volunteers.
- Educate others about people who are homeless – When you do volunteer, you can become an enthusiast and extend your enthusiasm to others. You can motivate others with your own sense of devotion by writing letters to the editor of your local paper and by advocating housing issues at election time.
- Publish shelter information – Contact your local newspapers, faith-based organization or civic group’s newsletters about running a weekly or monthly listing of area services available to people who are homeless and in need or prevention resources and include organizational needs for volunteers, food, and other donations.
- Educate your children – Volunteer as a family at a shelter or housing program. Suggest your children sort through their toys, books, and clothes they no longer use and donate them to organizations that assist people who are poor or homeless.
- Sign up your company/school – Ask your company or school to host fund-raising events. Ask that your proceeds be matched to help those who are homeless.
- Support local food banks and food pantries — Locally, there are food banks, food pantries and shelters. Each welcomes and appreciates volunteer support and food donations.
Send us your ideas – Each of the creative and successful ways to help the homeless described in
this list reaches a fraction of the homeless. But one by one, each effort added together will eventually transform our cities, suburbs, and rural communities into a society we can be proud of, where food and shelter is something everyone can take for granted.
- Volunteer with The Picnic Project.