America has a poverty issue. There are an estimated 553,742 people currently homeless in the United States. This is no number to scoff at. This blog post is going to cover concrete, actionable steps anyone can take to help the homeless. We’re mainly focusing on solutions for the United States, but many of these ideas also apply to other countries.

Helping the homeless is one of the easiest ways to give back to your community. Think of all the benefits you’ve received from your community. Many people don’t realize it, but your happiness levels coincide with your feelings of community, feelings of being a part of a tribe. Below, we’re going to list some options and give you some answers on how to help the homeless in America.
Treat People Equally.

Unfortunately, many people see homeless people as “inferior”. They think they’re failures and worth nothing. This is simply untrue. Because of this stigma, many people decide not to help the homeless. Let’s face it, many people spend years building up a reputation for themselves, making themselves look good financially and socially. They fear that getting caught spending time with the homeless might tarnish their reputation.

Avoiding this stigma and treating homeless people like friends is one of the easiest ways to help them. Act like they are a normal person, don’t give them strange looks or make them feel uncomfortable. In order to get back on their feet, they must feel that they’ll be a welcome member of society.

Give Opportunities for Contribution

Similar to the point above, many homeless people feel worthless. This is because they feel they aren’t providing any value to society. To get around this feeling, give homeless people opportunities to add value to the community. This can come monetarily, such as hiring them for labor-oriented jobs. A simple example of this is hiring during the holiday season. Many stores and businesses are short-staffed during the holiday rush. By hiring the homeless, you can give them an opportunity to earn money, experience, and the feeling of being a worthy member of society.

But try not to give the homeless “busy work”. Busy work is work that is random and not specialized. This type of work tends to make homeless people feel pitied, that someone is just giving them work because they want to help them. People want to feel valued, that someone is hiring them to do the work because they are good at it. Offer a homeless person consistent work in a specialized area, over time they will grow more comfortable and experienced with the work.

Provide Honest Encouragement

Having a genuine authentic conversation with someone can really change your previously entrenched beliefs about someone or something. Homeless people are not scary, they like to talk with others and are normal people. A simple and free way to help the homeless is to talk with them. Listen to their story, relate with them, and become friends. It’s easier to figure out issues with others, rather than by yourself.
Having an open-mind is a key to working with the homeless. The stigma that society puts around homeless people is incredibly hard to overcome. But once done, it can change your view of the world and society in general. Talk them through their issues, it could help change their life and potentially change yours.

Volunteer with Charities and Organizations

Ultimately, it’s difficult for one person to provide everything one might need to get back on their feet. As each individual need piles up (Income, education, healthcare, etc.) it gets harder and harder for one person to provide. A charity or an organization can provide this holistic care for someone. They have the resources and specialized knowledge to get people back on their feet.
Volunteering at one of these places is easy. Simple look for organizations in your area and contact them saying that you want to volunteer. Here are a few tasks they might give you.
1. Serving hot food at a soup kitchen
2. Training the homeless in a basic skill
3. Packing care packages
4. Helping someone move or generally transition back into the workforce
As you can see, each of these tasks looks rewarding. In addition, there are benefits to yourself for doing it. The experience is valuable and teaches you life lessons. It can also be put on a Resume and often looks good as a hiring candidate. But lastly, volunteering gives you a sense of usefulness in your community.

Donate Money or Goods and Services

This section will be all encompassing and cover many of the items you can donate in order to help a homeless person. These can come either as standalone items or in care packages. Below is a list of potential items for donation
• Nonperishable food items
• Socks
• Soap
• Towel
• Toothbrush & Toothpaste
• Blanket
• Books
• Socks
• Waterproof Bags
• Underwear
• Toiletries
• First-Aid Kits
• Spices
• School Supplies
• Used Bicycle
Any other used gear that may be lying around in your home could be put to better use with a homeless person. Please consider donating as it could help someone turn their life around.

Develop a List of Shelters

One of the easiest ways to help a homeless person is to direct them to a shelter. A shelter can provide warmth, comfort, and resources for the person to get back on their feet. Information for your local homeless shelters can be found on Google or in a phone book. Be sure to keep some index cards with information for these various shelters with you every time you go out. You can then give the homeless person the index card and feel that you’ve helped them.

Give Recyclables

Do you have empty cans and plastic bottles lying around the home waiting to be collected? Consider donating these to a homeless person. You can save the environment by recycling but at the same time give a homeless person enough money to afford a few meals.

Spread Awareness

Many people are unaware of the homeless problem that exists in so many places across America. A simple solution that can be done by one person is to spread the word, generate awareness around the problem. This can be done by contacting your local newspapers, churches, schools, and civic group newsletters. A newsletter or flyer with information listing how to volunteer is one of the most commonly seen solutions. These flyers provide great awareness for the homelessness issue.
Help the Homeless Apply for Government Aid.

Government aid is available to homeless people. This program was designed to get the back on their feet. The problem is, many homeless people don’t know how to access it and have little to no computer skills. Show them the way and offer to have the materials mailed first to your home and then brought to the shelter. Many government programs won’t send mailing materials unless you have a permanent home address.

Contact Government Representatives

Many people don’t realize the influence they can have with government officials. Often times you can send a personal letter to a government officials office and get a response within a few weeks. One of the easiest ways to spread awareness of the homelessness problem is to mail letters to your government representatives. They have the power to inflict mass change and use government resources to fight homelessness.
Information for each government representative can typically be found by searching online or going to a local municipality. The government exists to serve the people, why not take part in your civic duty and try to help others?

Work with Local Businesses

Local businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. An easy way to help the homeless is to speak with local businesses and organize food or clothing drives. Businesses like local grocery stores or clothing shops would be happy to donate clothing or food that didn’t sell. In addition, a clothing or food drive is a great marketing opportunity for the business because they are getting involved in the community and trying to do good.

There are many ways to help the homeless. The easiest ways are to donate money and volunteer at local homeless shelters and organizations. These organizations can provide holistic support to homeless people such as healthcare, job search, food, clothing, and a warm bed. There is only so much one person can do, so if you work with an organization you can multiply your efforts and potentially help many more people. The next section will cover general homelessness in the United States.

Homelessness is defined as living in housing below the minimum standards or lacks tenure. A homeless person is someone who often travels around and isn’t able to stay in one location for a set period of time. Homeless people are most often found in large cities and metropolitan areas. This is typically due to the high cost of living in cities.

Helping the Homeless: is a very simple thing to do given the opportunity./ Image by Asinno from Pixabay

People become homeless for a variety of reasons. Often it is addiction-related. The most common addictions that cause homelessness are drugs and alcohol. These addictions cause homelessness by forcing the user to spend their money to get a “fix” or to maintain some level of happiness. This is most often found in drug users. As they user drugs they build up a tolerance and require more and more of the drug to get the same effects. The cost eventually piles up and the drug takes over their life, making them unable to work.

There are roughly 500,000 people homeless in the United States. While this dwarfs the global number of roughly 100 million people, it’s still a huge problem. Homelessness is associated with high risk for suicide. Lack of shelter, food, and water can ruin a person’s mental state.

Tackling homelessness is difficult from a policy standpoint. Regulators want to keep cities clean, as homeless populations can disturb working people and decrease tourism levels. Begging and panhandling which is common in metropolitan areas are being increasingly banned. This has led to the only alternative for the homeless to be working. Unfortunately, many employers do not hire homeless people because they are not skilled enough or well dressed enough to compete with the other candidates.

Homelessness is an endless feedback loop of negativity. The lack of medical care and treatment causes people to get sicker, which then leads to increased medical expenses which cannot be afforded in the first place. Often times, people have to declare bankruptcy and try to start over, freeing themselves of debts.

The United States Department of Labor has attempted to address the homelessness problem by enacting laws and starting programs to get homeless people jobs. These efforts attempt to train people with the skills required to hold entry-level positions.

In addition, policy’s like rent control have been enacted in many cities, attempting to lower the cost of rent. This has made housing more affordable for homeless people but also caused problems with corruption and other factors.

Homeless Shelters

Homeless shelters are most often night shelters, where people come in the evening and are able to stay until the morning. These shelters are usually filled to the brim because they offer warm beds, a place to eat, and clean bathrooms.

There are also daytime shelters. Homeless people can go here to receive counseling and resources to help them get back on their feet.

To find homeless shelters near you, simply google “Homeless shelters near me” these are great places to volunteer at and there is a lot to learn from homeless people and their unique experiences.
Most homeless people carry all of their possessions on them at one time. Often this means walking around with a filled backpack or shopping cart.

But not all homeless people are easy to recognize. Many times, “couch surfers” or people that bounce around with friends and family, don’t look homeless but they are. This has also led to an increase in “fake” homeless people. These people sit outside restaurants begging for food pretending to be poor, in reality they just want a free meal. Be wary of donating food or money to these people.

Conclusion

Homeless people are not scary. Often times they are more friendly than the average person. They simply just need a little help getting back on their feet. The more time you spend around homeless people, the more your eyes will be opened to the world around you. They have unique experiences to learn from and helping them makes you feel good. Your community is important, and you have an obligation to protect the members of it.
Consider donating money or spare clothing and food to local homeless shelters and organizations that help the homeless. These organizations can provide complete support to homeless people and are more experienced with helping the homeless than the average person. To find these organizations, simply look it up on Google or search their names in the phone book. They would be happy to have you help them.
Volunteering is the next best way to help. Although it is a time commitment, it can expose you to so many things you might not otherwise see. Volunteering can include talking to the homeless about their lives or simply packing care packages. These packages contain essential items like toiletries, nonperishable food items, and clothing. Consider donating spare items in order to help the homeless.
If you want to help the homeless, visit overcominghomelessness.com to learn more about the homelessness problem in America