The Best Ways To Help The Homeless
The Very Best Way to Help is to Do Something Rather than Nothing
Homelessness is a complicated issue. It is caused by a wide array of problems, many of which feed into each other. Because people know the issue is so complex they often wonder what the best way to help homeless people is. Many people hesitate to act because they are so unsure of what to do.
I decided to take a crack at it and provide a few "best ways" for people to provide help. I'll be honest, they might not actually be the very best ways to help but, with a few ideas in hand, perhaps more people will be confident enough to take some action even if those ideas only serves as a springboard for better ones. This approach is based on my experience as a homeless person, as a person who worked with them, and who has taken people without homes into my own as well as from my research on the issue.
If you have ever wanted to do something about this serious social issue but were too overwhelmed by the complexity of it or too unsure of how best to help, read through my plan. Then find a part that you can do, any part of it at all, and just do it. Or, better yet, come up with a fantastic plan of your own and follow it. Don't forget to come back here and share what you did, too!
© 2009 Kylyssa
Change Attitudes about Homeless People
Spread empathy, then action will follow
Starting with yourself, change the way society thinks about homeless people. Most of society has categorized them as lazy, crazy, violent, addicted criminals who choose homelessness. Much of society sees them as morally and socially inferior. It is a commonly held belief that regular, average people cannot become homeless.
The truth is that homeless people are just people, people who have had something overtake them beyond their ability (mentally, emotionally, financially, physically) to cope with.
The only way to fight the societal stereotype of them as lesser life forms is to educate. To do this, more people need to be exposed to the realities of homelessness - its causes, its horrors, its nearness to them, and the stories and faces of the people without homes. To help this process, learn as much as you can about the issue and talk about it wherever you can, write about, think about it, and take action.
Become Friends with Someone Living on the Street
Begin to repair the lack of a friend and family support structure
You probably feel pretty sure your friends and family would help you if you were to be in danger of homelessness. You'd also be pretty motivated to help a friend or family member of yours, wouldn't you?
Those who lose their homes often entirely lack the support structure that most of us usually take for granted. They often become homeless because they can't deal with a crisis, something people with good, strong family and friend support structures are far better equipped to handle. For example, an elderly man with a strong friend and family support structure probably wouldn't become homeless if his roommate died leaving him with rent too high to pay with his Social Security income but the same man, without the help from family and friends likely would.
You can help rebuild or create a new friend/family support structure when you befriend someone who badly needs a friend. You can also learn how to strengthen your own support structure through this process. Begin with your friendship and encourage your homeless friend to partake in activities and social groups. One of the things you can do with the biggest impact is to help him reconnect with family and friends and give him emotional support. Nothing gives a person hope like the love of a friend and family can sometimes be convinced to care.
Give What You Can
Give money, necessities, time, knowledge, labor, friendship, or simply acknowledgement
Like everyone else, those who live on the street have many needs. The difference is that many of them are unable to meet their needs themselves. So they need a hand and there's no reason that that hand can't be mine or yours. Who else is going to step up to the plate if we don't?
Donate to charities, whether you donate time, knowledge or money, it all helps. Give directly to people out on the street - friendship, small gifts of necessities, help in finding a job or filling out assistance paperwork - all of this helps. Invite others to do the same.
You can learn more ways to make a difference without spending money at How to Help the Homeless without Spending a Dime. You can find ideas on what you can give directly to that will be both appreciated and helpful at What to Buy if You are Homeless. Thank you for caring.
Push for Change
Homelessness is symptomatic of problems within our society
Homelessness is not a disease, it is a symptom. To combat this illness of our society, we need to speak.
Research the laws and ordinances in your area. Many people are hindered in their fight to escape the streets by laws, laws that make homelessness itself a crime and prevent future employment, laws that prevent charities and others who wish to provide services from helping them effectively, there are laws that allow employers to pay insufficient wages, and there are laws that allow creditors to garnish debtors into poverty. Find out what unjust laws exist in your area and in your country and then speak out.
And keep an eye on health care reform because the number one cause of bankruptcy in America is medical bills. No person or family should have to lose a home due to illness.
The only way to help homeless people is to get involved and do something
There probably isn't really a "best way" to help homeless people. But any way which people get involved and actually do something about poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity in their culture, their country, their city, or their home is a good and useful thing. So don't worry about what the best way to help homeless people is, worry about them instead.
Even if all you do is change your attitudes, every bit helps.
Can One Person Make a Difference in a Problem as Big as Homelessness?
Can individuals make a difference if they commit to helping?
© 2009 Kylyssa Shay