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How to Help the Homeless

When thinking about helping the homeless, images of donating money to charities, giving food to homeless shelters, and volunteering at soup kitchens may come to mind. These are all excellent and important ways to help homeless people in the community, but how can you help someone you meet in person? This is a list of three simple yet helpful things you can do:

1. Give spare change or other helpful items you have on hand. You really never know what someone needs or wants unless you offer it to them. Iíve heard of people offering things like coats, blankets, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, and water. My personal favorites to have on hand are scarves, hand warmers, and spare change.

Another approach to this, if you have the time and resources, is to put together care kits that you can give to others when youíre out and about. Include stuff like snacks, water, antibacterial wipes, Band-Aids, gum, etc.

2. Have important information about your city on hand. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to give people help in finding the right resources. Either put in your phone or carry on an index card the addresses and phone numbers of the homeless shelter, the soup kitchen, the womenís shelter, and any other places you think would be helpful.

Another good thing to know is where people can hunt for jobs and housing. Itís helpful to be generally aware of what positions might be open or what businesses are currently hiring, and itís also helpful to take note of housing thatís available.

3. Sometimes, people just need a listening ear. I was once on my way to an event in a big city, and there was a homeless woman standing next to the sidewalk, looking very lonely. I gave her the rest of the change I had in my purse and] talked to her for a little while. Her story was heartbreaking, but somehow, I think that sharing her sorrows with someone else made them easier to bear for just one moment. I think that the validation of her experiences was as valuable to her as the money I put in her hand. It was humanizing.

I had a wonderful experience talking to that woman, but I do want to remind everyone to use your good judgment when interacting with strangers. I felt safe because my family was with me, it was daytime, and there were lots of other people around. I am not encouraging you to do things that seem dangerous or go against your common sense. Remember that, unfortunately, there are some people out there who intend to do harm to others. Please, please always use your good judgment when approaching strangers.

We can't solve the issue of homelessness on our own, but we can reach out to individuals. Although the challenge may seem overwhelming at times, there really are things that each of us can do to help homeless people in our communities. I hope that all of us will employ our unique talents and ideas to help people in distress.

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