Cash and food are wonderful ways to lend a helping hand to someone in between homes, but there are many other ways of providing a boost.
There are many reasons leading to homelessness, but none as important as lending a hand when possible. Cash and food are always helpful, but there’s so much more that is hard to come by for the homeless, even in shelters.
Cold Weather Supplies
-Thick socks (I buy the packs of white socks in the men’s department)
-Hats/Gloves (Universal sizes)
-Sweatshirts/pants (Walmart has these for around $8 in the men’s department, I usually get XL as a universal size)
-Gloves (I get the pack of black cotton ones in the men’s department)
-Hot hands/Hot feet warmers
-Sleeping bags and tents (temporary shelter is better than no shelter)
-T-Shirts (I get the packs in the men’s department, I buy XL for better chance of sizing)
-Pants(I buy sweats or joggers for better universal sizing)
-Boxers/Panties(I buy the packs)
-Shoes(this is hard unless you know someone’s size, but asking can be helpful)
-Menstrual products (Periods don’t quit just because women don’t have a home, panties or products)
-Wipes (I like to buy sensitive, fragrance free wipes because allergies don’t go away due to homelessness)
-Soaps (hand soap, soap, shampoo, conditioner)
Other ways of giving money
-Nearby restaurant gift cards
-Uber gift cards
-Hotel room gift certificates
-Visa gift cards
Other ways of making changes
-Making changes at a local level(I’ll touch on this more in a second)
Remember, something is better than nothing. A baggy t-shirt is better than a hole-filled shirt, a tent is better than sleeping in the rain and taking action is better than doing nothing. Think about the things you use day to day in your household, that make your life easier/functional. These are things we take for granted that many homeless people don’t have.
On social media, some people divide these up into things gallon-sized baggies and keep them in a box in the back of their car. When they see someone homeless, they hand them out. This is a great idea! I also like to buy small backpacks for this purpose as well.
Despite the reason why someone is homeless, they deserve a lending hand. There are many reasons people become homeless, and removing the obstacles to housing is one way we can change many lives.
Obstacles to Housing for the Homeless
Homeless people are human beings in need of compassion and empathy like every one human on this plant. Many, many, many of the homeless are only in need of a helping hand. A helping hand would have prevented their homeless status in the first place.
Just because someone has a mental illness, has an addiction problem or subject to any other discrimination out there, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the chance at getting better. They deserve food in their belly and a warm place to sleep at night. They deserve a chance at recovery, whether that is through rehab, therapy or whatever care they need.
I understand not every homeless person would take advantage of these services, but the majority would and it’s important not to discriminate against the homeless as a whole, just because of a few.
Remember, not every person is able to work. This is a cause of homelessness as well. You can't get a job if you can't get through rehab(to get off of drugs.) You can't get a job if mental illness prevents you from functioning day to day, and you can't get therapy. There are thousands of disabilities that prevent ability to work and all of these people still deserve warmth, food, shelter and kindness.
Difficulties Proving Citizenship
Have you ever lost your birth certificate? You social security card? Passport? Do you remember trying to get your driver’s license or have you ever applied for government assistance? You can’t receive any of these without these important documents.
Now, imagine losing your home(and these documents) to a disaster. What now?
No residence? No ability to receive important documents, no proof of residence for a driver’s license, assistance or ability to receive these documents in the mail. Also, if you have relocated out of state, there’s a 90+ day wait(and $60) for some states to mail a certified birth certificate.
No driver’s license? No social security card? No job. No benefits. It's as easy as misplacing your birth certificate to losing access to benefits. It's that much harder to get these documents back.
I’d like to touch on this, here as well. Without proper military paperwork, the V.A. will not provide benefits or assistance.
Of course, financial difficulties, like job loss, rent increase, cost of living increases and other factors play a significant roll.
Removing these Obstacles
If it were that simple! With the current laws in place requiring employers to prove citizenship, we’re preventing our own citizens from getting the jobs they need. With the same laws, we’re preventing the homeless from receiving the healthcare and food benefits they so desperately need.
Using your first amendment right, you can speak out against these obstacles. Using social media, tweet at your local government, all the way up to your state’s governor. Comment on their posts, email, start a petition, reach out to news channels, write articles or hold up signs outside of their office. Feel free to contact representatives or whoever you’d like. After all, they work for you.
There’s power in numbers. Find your voice and make it heard.
Clothing drives, food drives and similar programs are all wonderful ideas to make a difference in someone’s life. Here’s a few ideas of how you can get your organization(church, local businesses, etc.) involved to make a large change.
Free Laundry Day
Reach out to local laundromats for this one.
I’ve seen churches do this in their mess halls, but I think it’s also a great idea to pass out soup in cups on colder days. Here’s a collection of soup recipes for an extra large crowd.
For legal liability reasons, it's difficult to find businesses to do this, but if you're able to, excellent! When the weather will be especially inclement, setting up fold-out cots in a large space, like a gym, is beneficial.
This isn’t my idea, but check out this idea from Montana, where they constructed tent-cities for the homeless.
Again, speaking with local government agencies and working out ways to assist the homeless in getting documents like their driver’s license, entering rehab or assistance with getting benefits(or launching these programs) can also prove helpful.
Remember, it takes one small action of kindness to change someone's life. Your voice may feel small, but it is mighty and it is loud. Never be scared to use it.