How often do you walk past a homeless person? Anyone can find themselves living on the streets if they lose their job or home, and don't have friends who can offer them a bed. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads should spare a thought for those who aren't so lucky. But merely feeling sorry for them isn't enough. So what are some practical ways that we can help the homeless?
When you clear out your closet, sort out clothes that would be useful for a homeless person. Warm and practical clothing like sweaters, jeans and sturdy footwear would be most useful. Get your boyfriend, brother and dad to clear out their closets as well, as men's clothing is going to be needed even more than women's clothing.
Another very practical way to help the homeless is to join a food run. There are lots of organisations involved in preparing and distributing food to homeless people. Churches and other volunteers may offer hot food (traditionally known as a 'soup kitchen', or distribute easy to eat food on the streets. You can buy supplies, help prepare meals or go on a food run.
Homeless people also need bedding to keep warm. If you have old sleeping bags, blankets or duvets donate them to a homeless charity or give directly to someone in need. If you work in a large organisation, why not offer to collect bedding from your colleagues to pass on?
The general opinion is that giving cash directly to a homeless person isn't the best use of your money. Donate it instead to an organisation dedicated to helping the homeless. They can target your money where it's most needed, such as providing accommodation, supporting people to find work, or providing food and other necessities.
Do you have skills such as cutting hair? Volunteer to cut the hair of homeless people; it could help give them a much-needed boost or look presentable for a job interview. Or if you have medical knowledge, volunteer at a health clinic for the homeless, so that they can get the medical care that is otherwise inaccessible to them.
Because of their situation homeless people can't easily access any help. You could become an advocate and help them locate sources of assistance, such as welfare and housing. Without a fixed address they can't receive mail, so you could act as a point of contact for public services and receive mail on their behalf.
One need that's often overlooked is toiletries. You could organise packs to give out to the homeless. These could include shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, feminine hygiene products, deodorant and a comb. Such items can be inexpensive, yet make a difference. I know of one organisation that makes up toiletries packs at Christmas, but this could be done at any time of year.
It's easy to feel frustrated and helpless when you see homeless people on the street. But there are many ways of helping the homeless, even if we can't give them what they most need. Any contribution is valuable. How do you like to give back to your community?
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