7 Tips for Helping the Homeless

We pretend not to see them. But they're there. They don't have a voice and no matter the choices that have been made, they need our help. Here's 7 tips for interacting with and helping those that are currently homeless. 

See them.

I've done it too. Looking the other way. Pretending I didn't hear them. I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach and then push it aside, moving onto the more important things in my life. To help people who are homeless, we first have to see the invisible. Just make eye contact. Smile. Wave. Nod. Yes, people who are homeless may take this as an invitation to ask you for money. But who knows how just being seen may impact someone's day? 

Next time you see someone who is homeless, make eye contact and smile. 

Treat them like a REAL person.

This goes hand in hand with seeing someone. Remember that these people have birthdays, mothers, fathers, fears, memories, preferences, dreams and stories. They are valuable, and just because they don't have a home, doesn't mean they aren't worth anything. It's uncomfortable, but even just asking someone's name can be a game changer. What if you treating them with love and respect is what they need to get back on their feet? 

Next time you interact with someone  who is homeless, ask them their name and how their day is going. Instead of asking why they are homeless, ask them what their story is or where they are from. 

Do the right thing.

Give money. Don't give money. You do the right thing for you. Some people opt to give food instead of money, which is nice and what I sometimes do. However, sometimes, when I do have cash handy, I will give a few dollars to someone who needs it.

Yes, I've heard the arguments about how giving money "rewards begging and doesn't encourage getting a job" and giving money "enables drug users to keep up with their addiction." I also know some people have been burned by rude or disrespectful homeless people before. I know I have.

ut you can't let that stop you from doing the RIGHT thing.   I know that I believe that whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord and He will repay you for your deeds.  If I'm doing what I believe is to be right, then my intentions were good. Whatever that person chooses to do is on them. I'm only responsible for my actions and reactions. 

Next time you see someone who is homeless, do what is right for you-- give money, food, or whatever you feel is best. 

Create a blessing bag.

This is one of my favorite things. I usually try to keep a few Zip-loc gallon sized bags in my car that are filled with necessities and treats. For example, I have chapstick, hand sanitizer, granola bars, bottles of water, toothbrush and toothpaste, a McDonald's or Royal Farms giftcard, and a note of encouragement. The way you see others' faces light up when you hand them a bag of goodies is priceless. This is also a great alternative to giving money.

Volunteer.

Perhaps the most hands-on, direct way to help the homeless is to volunteer at a homeless shelter. It doesn't have to be all the time. Perhaps just volunteer once in awhile, once every month. I promise you that you will leave feeling more blessed than when you came in. There's something so rewarding about doing something good for other people. 

Begin to explore the opportunities of volunteering in a homeless shelter near you and commit to trying to volunteer at least one time next month! 

Donate.

If you aren't up for volunteering right now, find out what your local homeless shelter needs. Why not just drop off some necessities? Don't forget some toys for the children living in the shelter! Another option is donating clothes you would otherwise give to Goodwill or give away to someone else. Sometimes, homeless shelters will take clothing donations. Above all, it feels the least rewarding but a monetary donation goes a long way. It can help the shelters accommodate more homeless people, therefore keeping more homeless people off the streets. 

Call your local homeless shelter this week and see what items they need (sometimes it's online too!) or make a monetary donation.

Talk about the issue.

Above all else, we need to talk about the invisible people in our society. Because even if their lives are nothing like ours, we need to talk about this issue. It's real and it's happening to people who are good people, people who could contribute so much to our community and have the potential for beautiful lives. It's happening whether we turn a blind eye or not. So why don't we talk to our kids about people who are homeless and explain how we need to have compassion? Why don't we talk to our significant others about going on a volunteering date at a local homeless shelter? Why not correct someone when they talk negatively about a people who are homeless? Let's reduce the stigma and increase the compassion.