How to Help the Homeless
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
My young son was asked to do a school project on some arbitrary important issue in our country. He chose to do a presentation on the condition of the homeless in Connecticut. His project included a survey requiring him to contact people we knew in the community to ask them if they were aware of programs to help the homeless. The most common response was that "they didn't know of any programs", which wasn't a very surprising response. What I found fascinating was the reason they gave - they didn't know of the programs because they never needed help themselves! Moreover, many of these people seemed to feel it was very important that I knew they were too good to need these programs. Amazing! Not only had they given absolutely no thought to how they could help the homeless, but all they cared about was how other people perceived their own financial status!
Some of the statistics my son compiled were surprising. Not only are 15% of all Connecticut children living in poverty, but some cities (such as Hartford) have as many as 50% of the children in this category. Meanwhile, one of my acquaintances owns two houses in the upscale town of Greenwich, a beautiful home with a private beach in Florida, and another home in an upscale area of NYC - along with two high-end BMW's and a Porsche SUV- and he considers himself to have financial problems! Is this really justice? Is it even consistent with the ideals of those that came before us, who intended to create a country where we could all live in Democratic equality? This sounds more like the separation of the peasants and royalty our founders fought against. Should the top 1% of our country have 93% of the income? Should parents have to live in areas with drive-by shootings and have their children attend gang- and drug-dominated schools, while wealthy people's vacation homes sit empty?
My friend Billybuc inspired me to help get the message out regarding the many social ills in this country. Billybuc writes from the heart on the many issues we are faced with and suggests ways to live a simpler, more frugal life. He is a role model to me, and provides much support to so many people here on HubPages. I am more than happy to help because I believe awareness is the first step toward social change. As of now there are 46.2 million people living below the poverty line in our very own country and many more people in the world in even worse conditions. This is the highest number in two decades. We are all aware of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the economic realities of those that struggle every day, especially during the last few years. To be honest, I'm in no way jealous or resentful of all those wealthy people - although I wouldn't mind having a vacation home of my own - but I do believe there should be a more equitable distribution of the wealth.
Anyone Can Become Homeless
What Can You Do To Help?
Many of us are struggling these days just to provide for our own family, so we can't imagine finding the resources to help others. However, even if we think it is hard for us, the reality is that there are always people somewhere who are much worse off. If every person contributed in a small way, the combined effort would result in a big change. Here are some suggestions that require a minimal amount of money and time:
- Donate to the food pantry in your area. More people today are relying upon the food pantry to feed their families, yet donations are at an all-time low. Contact your food pantry to find out what items they need the most. Donating just two items a week can make a huge difference.
- Donate items that you no longer need through Freecycle.org. This is a fascinating site that allows people to donate and receive things such as furniture, computers, appliances or baby equipment - absolutely free! Check it out. You can join a group in your state and donate items you no longer need, some of which could change someone else's life. I love this concept because people can get things they need without feeling the judgment they may feel when going through charities. I'm going to donate some good-quality baby equipment that we still have up in the attic. It's nice to think that my old stuff could make a real difference to some young couple with a new baby.
- Spend a few hours a week or even a few hours a month helping to build a home for someone that would otherwise be homeless through Habitat for Humanity. You can also help in other ways. My son volunteered to help out in their store, which has used low-cost furniture and appliances that recipients of the new homes can use.
- Offer to provide childcare even just once a month for a single parent so they can work and save a little money. Very often a large percentage of the paycheck is used to cover childcare leaving little for food, clothing, and rent.
- Surprise a family with a meal or give them a gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers. Even one meal during a challenging time can give a person hope and make a significant difference.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. It is so important to look people in the eye and treat them with respect so they can feel human in an inhuman situation. A little compassion goes a long way.
Are you doing anything to help eliminate poverty?
Suggested Government Programs to Help
Although we already have many government programs in place such as Welfare and assisted-living arrangements, there are additional ways the government could help with the economic disparity:
- Supplement income-based taxes with higher sales taxes. For example there could be a 5% tax on a new car. Therefore, a person buying the BMW pays more in income taxes than the person buying a Hyundai. Pure income-based taxes allow too many loopholes and ways to hide income, but sales taxes are related directly to how much free money a person has to spend, and can be targeted toward luxury items.
- Offer more free education programs on evenings and weekends to enable people to get more advanced training or an educational degree. This kind of investment more than pays off by improving the quality of the workers we have in the workplace. Also, this helps people "help themselves", rather than just providing a direct handout.
- Offer more free high-quality childcare to enable people to further their education or earn an income. The government can organize such programs much more efficiently and economically by tapping into existing infrastructures such as public school buildings.
- Encourage the establishment of communal living centers. Such arrangements ensure private sleeping and living areas, but also provide communal common areas like a playground and a shared kitchen. People can share the expenses, childcare responsibilities, and offer moral support.
- Establish free counseling for people going through financial crises, because it is often hard for a person to change their situation when they feel beaten down and judged by society.
Resources for the Homeless
Can People Who Are Struggling To Survive Economically Realistically Be Happy?
Everyone has an equal right to happiness. Like many others today, my family is facing economic challenges, and I often wonder if it is possible for anyone with financial stress to really be happy. I sometimes feel inundated with well-intentioned comments and articles about how to be happy without money, but is that realistic? When your house needs to be maintained to even be livable, and your car needs to be repaired so you can get to work to keep your income, how can you ignore the fact that you just don't have the money for it? Income never keeps up with the rising costs of medical expenses and utility costs, but employers are cutting pay and jobs, and there is never enough to go around. How do you explain to your children why they have to have so much less than many others they go to school with?
We recently watched a movie that showcased people from all over the world that were poor materialistically but rich in happiness. Some were fishermen in a bayou or people living in shacks in Asia. These people seemed very happy in their own small, private worlds, but we were only shown a tiny slice of a few isolated lives. Blindly ignoring what can go wrong without considering the future may allow you to feel happy today, but what do you do when that changes? What happens when something goes wrong, like a serious health issue when you have no health insurance, or major damage to your home or car when you have no reserves in the bank? Maybe money can't buy happiness, but if you care about your family, a serious lack of money can make it impossible to relax enough to feel happy.
There has to be a middle ground, something between being constantly stressed about what can go wrong, but not going so far as to placidly run away from the consequences. Sometimes a little help from somebody else can be enough to tip the balance. If people knew that there were people with compassion in the world, people who would come through if they really needed it, they could breath a little easier and not have to be so afraid. But even now, too many people seem to be so worried about what they themselves have to deal with, and never consider how they can help others.
What have you done to help eliminate poverty in our country? What have you done to make even one life breath easier? Please let me know if you have suggestions to help those that are in the midst of an economic struggle.
Oh, and what did my young son learn from his school project? Well, he felt that his project had made other people aware of how to help the homeless in Connecticut, and maybe it had even changed their attitudes toward the homeless in general. He summed it all up by saying "one person really can make a difference!" I completely agree!
Resources to Help the Homeless
Check out these articles by some very talented writers participating in the H.O.W. (Humanity One World) Movement:
- How to make H.O.W. work by btrbell
Another contribution to H.O.W. Humanity One World. Teaming together to make it better!
- H.O.W. - Organizing for Human Rights and Social Justice by Irc7815
H.O.W. - Humanity One World, is organizing writers to promote social justice and end human rights abuse. Take a look at what we want to do and then get involved.
- Social Issues: How Do We Cure Social Ills? H.O.W. by billybuc
The beginning of a world movement of compassion and empathy towards our fellow human beings. Will you join me?