Tip #1 – Acknowledge & Engage
Homelessness brings a sense of loneliness that erodes the core of a person’s self-value. When you are homeless, a smile and a word of kindness can make a difference.
So be sure to acknowledge the homeless you encounter in the street. Say a simple hello.
Avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing the homeless. Many paths lead to homelessness.
Tip #2 – Be Ready to Help Today
Sometimes, the homeless just need help to get through the day. In general, it is better not to give away cash. Instead:
- Carry gift cards from fast food restaurants in your wallet. This way you can help your homeless neighbor to get something to eat and rest inside a restaurant.
- Pack granola bars in your pocket or purse; they provide energy and nutrition.
- A small bottle of water also helps prevent dehydration, a common health concern for the homeless community.
- Instead of keeping clothes in your closet that you’ve outgrown, carry one at a time and give it away to someone you see living on the streets:
- During the colder weather, pack an extra pair of winter gloves, a scarf in a color you don’t like anymore, a knit hat that you got for free at a game or event.
- If you travel often, next time you stay in a hotel remember to grab the complimentary hand lotion (that small bottle in the bathroom) and keep it in your pocket or bag. This lotion can help more than you think.
- A clean T-shirt or a new pair of socks makes a big difference in the sweltering heat. Being able to change into clean, fresh clothes helps lighten the day.
TO KEEP IN MIND
Always ask if they would like help, rather than giving away something they may not actually want or need. Many of your neighbors in need will be grateful for toiletries, clothing, food or water, but some may be unable to appreciate your help. Please don’t be discouraged. Just smile and keep on your way. You may find someone else to help.
Tip #3 – Understand & Tell
Homelessness carries many stereotypes and stigmatization that make it hard to help others. Learn about the different paths that lead to homelessness: every person living on the streets has a story.
- Some are educated and down on their luck.
- Some struggle with addiction.
- Others lost everything to medical bills, and some suffer mental illness.
No matter what brought them to homelessness, they all have value.
Tell what you learn to friends, family and colleagues.
Have a blog? Write about what you learned about homelessness this month.
If you volunteer and tell others about your experience with enthusiasm, you can help eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes.
Gather a group of friends and volunteer together, collect food or clothing in your community and donate it.
Tip #4 – Invite
Homelessness is very complex and, many times, generates vicious circles that are hard to break. However, New Beginnings has been providing immediate help as well as long-lasting recovery programs since 2008.
If you want to help a homeless person get back on their feet, you can point them to New Beginnings and invite them to get help here.
Carry with you one of our newsletters with information on how to get to New Beginnings and what type of help we offer. Every Saturday, we offer weekly services in several counties at what we call our “Helping Hands Outreach.”
We also have social service offices in Orange County, Four Corners and Lake County where they can speak with someone about our programs and referrals. We have emergency food available at each social services office and at our thrift stores.
Remember, they may not accept your invitation right away, but it is good for them to know they have it available when they are ready.
Tip #5 – Pray
Finally, pray for your homeless neighbors. Pray for:
- physical needs
- emotional and spiritual needs
- the motivation to join a recovery program if necessary
- courage to seek the help needed
You might consider praying with your homeless neighbors. Just ask first if you can pray aloud with them. Most people will be grateful for the offer, but some might prefer you to pray for them when you are alone.
Want more specific prayer requests from your neighbors in need? You can sign up for our Prayer Ministry emails. Once a week, we forward special needs and requests on behalf of our residents and the homeless community we serve.
You may also use the Prayer Ministry to submit a prayer request on behalf of someone you meet.
You don’t have to look away from homelessness anymore.
Men and women have entered our homeless rehabilitation program and left experiencing hope, confidently embracing independence. Someone at New Beginnings cared enough to reach out and let them know how and where to begin. Do you need help?
We are able to do much more in the community because we depend heavily on the help of volunteers. Learn how you can volunteer at New Beginnings.
Faithful and caring donors help us offer hope and services to broken lives. Your online gift today, or donation by phone or mail, can help bring about lifelong change in the life of a man or woman.
(article adapted from www.bowery.org, @BoweryMisssion)