Reaching Out To The Homeless In Your Community
We see them everyday; people standing on street corners begging for a handout. They appear scruffy, undernourished and disengaged with life while holding signs stating they are homeless and will work for food. We give them a glance, or ignore them while waiting for the light to change. A few of us will give them a dollar or toss some coins into their hand to provide some assistance.
The number of homeless in our society is increasing daily and is genuine concern for government and humanity. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports a 34% jump from April 2008 to April 2009 in the number of foreclosures. They also report a loss of six million jobs since the start of the recession. In May 2009 the unofficial unemployment rate was 9.4%. These statistics present cause for the increase of poor and homeless across our nation.
In addition, the lack of public assistance has declined since 2008 leaving many without means of obtaining housing, medical assistance and food resources. As one can imagine this leads to emotional stress which often results in the separation of families due to domestic violence. Generally, women are the victims of abuse and are forced into a homeless situation. And accordingly, this involves the children who must now live in the streets.
Who Are The Homeless?
Meeting The Needs Of The HomelessClick thumbnail to view full-size
Profile of The Homeless
Recently, my husband, Mike, and I served at an event reaching out to the homeless in our community. The event was sponsored by government and our local church organization working together to provide those in need with food, clothing, haircuts, basic medical testing and information on employment and housing.
As we served, we were able to chat with participants as they moved through the different stations. They shared their problems and concerns, but also expressed their gratitude. We found it very humbling. One individual, whom I will call Montana to protect her identity, carried such a positive outlook on life. It didn't matter to her that she was homeless, she had a smile for others and encouraged them to keep hoping for the best.
Another person, whom I will call Chance, shared how he had just been to the unemployment office and was told there were no jobs available. He was slightly depressed and expressed how he felt hopeless. It was a challenge for us to speak with Chance about the silver lining in life; however, we managed to help him through the disappointment and by the end of our conversation, coupled with prayers on his behalf, he was in a better mood.
Homeless people come from all walks of life. They come from all ethnic backgrounds, and from every occupation. They are families, singles, and even children. Today, there are about 1.5 million children (42% under the age of five) in the US who are homeless. In our county alone, there are 1,636 students in the public school system identified as homeless over the past school year and the number is growing (source: Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County). Lastly, another population of homeless persons is the veteran and they represent about 40% of homeless men.
It is difficult to define the typical homeless person, but each one has a need for shelter, food, health care and employment. We must look at the factors with respect to providing a solution to ending homelessness in our nation.
Where Do They Live?
Resource On The Homeless
How You Can Help
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." —Matthew 10:42
- Volunteer at a shelter in your community. Shelters need help in serving food, giving out clothing and completing administrative duties. Often just a simple listening ear is helpful to those who feel like no one cares.
- Offer your professional skills and talent. Shelters and organizations are always looking for people who possess carpentry, plumbing, catering, tutoring, counseling, and child care backgrounds.
- Organize an event. Sponsor a fund raiser such as a talent show, musical performance, family game night to raise money in support of the homeless in your community.
- Invite those who are homeless to a sponsored event, worship service, public outreach program or community meeting to share their views. Encourage the members to support the cause.
- As a parent, talk to your children about homelessness and read children's books on the subject. Discuss as a family how you can volunteer in the community to aid in the relief of those who are without homes.
- If you are a teacher, discuss the issue in the classroom and encourage students to seek out ways to help those who are without homes. Your local Coalition For The Homeless will have book lists and suggestions in reaching out to children about the homeless issue in your community.
© 2013 Dianna Mendez