Remembering the Homeless During Thanksgiving Holidays
Giving Thanks for Our Abundance
This time of year, many people around the world are giving thanks for the blessings in their lives. Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in the U.S. and Canada. And, during the Christmas season worldwide, people also traditionally express appreciation for good fortune by giving gifts to loved ones.
Giving thanks is a personal expression and varies from individual to individual. Some people choose to give back by donating time at soup kitchens, or via money through charity organizations.
Other people take their gifts to the street, quite literally, to capture the plight of the homeless during the holiday season. The images below show how little some people have, and hopefully will encourage you to give more, or at least give thanks for the gifts we have.
After all, that is the spirit of Thanksgiving.
Don't Judge the Homeless
"People who know they are important, think about others. People who think they are important, think about themselves." - Hans F. Hansen
Instead of judgment, why not give homeless people compassion? After all, we do not know their individual story that has led to their current condition. Today, many people judge the homeless as having "chosen" their circumstance as a result of drug or alcohol use or laziness. But many of these people have served their country as veterans, are victims of mental illness or abuse, or simply have fallen on hard times that have nothing to do with their own personal decisions.
The next time you see a homeless person on the side of the road, don't ask yourself what they have done to put them in that situation. Instead, consider what our society has failed to do - whether by providing adequate health care, etc. If you worry about handing out money that may encourage drug abuse, why not consider other ways to help needy people? One of my good friends carries a huge box of granola bars in her car to hand out the window to hungry individuals at intersections. In addition, Boy Scouts in my hometown construct bunk beds and help out at shelters.
Helpless Homeless Children
Even if you cannot help yourself from casting some blame on homeless people for their situation, I hope that you at least consider that homeless children are entirely innocent and should be assisted to the best of our abilities.
Sadly, many children are counted among homeless people. In fact, about 39% of the total homeless population in the United States are kids under the age of 18. Consider that figure - nearly 1/2 of those that are homeless are children. How can we blame them for their plight?
Homeless children represent the most helpless of our homeless population. They have literally been born into the cycle without bearing any blame for their situation. While many social systems can help these unfortunate children, including food stamps, school meal programs and the like, there are few programs that can help put a roof under kids' heads.
Causes of Homelessness
According to the United States Conference of Mayors,the main cause is the lack of affordable housing. Other major causes of homelessness include:
- mental illness
- substance abuse
- low-paying jobs
- domestic violence
- prisoner release
Wikipedia Homelessness Statistics
Up to 3.5 million people are homeless each year, which translates to about 842,000 people per week. These figures comprise about 1% of the total population in the U.S., or about 10% of its poor.
Consider these startling homelessness statistics:
- 40% are families with children
- 24% are married
- 49% are African Amercian (over-represented compared to 11% of general population)
- 35% are Caucasian (under-represented compared to 75% of general population)
- 22% are considered to have serious mental illness or are disabled
- 30% have substance abuse problems.
- 46% report chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer.
Have You Ever Known Someone in Need?
Donate to Help the Homeless
This year, the Salvation Army is using credit card machines to help make it easier to donate during the holiday season. The traditional bell-ringing people near the red buckets can now take more than just cash and coins. Next time you walk past a volunteer during the holiday season, consider taking out your credit card or debit card and making a small donation, even if your wallet is otherwise empty.
You don't have to give only money to help the homeless. Our church runs a weekly soup kitchen and looks for volunteers to help prepare and serve the food. Both tasks require no output of money (unless desired) and can be accomplished in a weekly donation of 2-4 hours. Just think - over a month's time, you can make a significant difference by giving only 8 hours, which is only 1/3 of a single day!
© 2011 Stephanie Hicks