3o-some Ways to help the homeless

I found this list on the “just give” website, and I think it’s fitting for this blog.  I’m thinking a lot about the homeless and how I came to work with them, and I’m listing some of them that I think are are especially true.

  1. Understand who the homeless are – Help dispel the stereotypes about the homeless. Learn about the different reasons for homelessness, and remember, every situation is unique.

This was a problem for me when I first started working with them. I thought they were out to get me, out to hurt me. I was very wrong. 

  1. Educate yourself about the homeless – A homeless person may be someone who lost their job, a runaway child, or someone with a mental illness. One of the first steps in helping people is to see them as individuals and to find out what they need. Notice them; talk to them. Most are starved for attention.

They’re easy to ignore, and many of them go out of their way to be invisible. 

  1. Respect the homeless as individuals – Give the homeless people the same courtesy and respect you would accord your friends, your family, your employer. Treat them as you would wish to be treated if you needed assistance.

They don’t always get kindness, but they give it a lot.

  1. Respond with kindness – We can make quite a difference in the lives of the homeless when we respond to them, rather than ignore or dismiss them. Try a kind word and a smile.

They identify themselves as “others,” as not belonging anywhere.

  1. Develop lists of shelters – Carry a card that lists local shelters so you can hand them out to the homeless. You can find shelters in your phone book.

When I get panhandled or stopped, I talk to people about coming to my agency or other soup kitchens.  If nothing else, I direct them to call 211. 211 is the United Way information and referral line – if you need a service, call 211 and they’ll tell you what’s in the area. 211.

  1. Bring food – It’s as simple as taking a few extra sandwiches when you go out. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer him or her something to eat. If you take a lunch, pack a little extra. When you eat at a restaurant, order something to take with you when you leave.
  1. Give money – One of the most direct ways to aid the homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless go a long way.
  2. Give recyclables – In localities where there is a “bottle law,” collecting recyclable cans and bottles is often the only “job” available to the homeless. But it is an honest job that requires initiative. You can help by saving your recyclable bottles, cans, and newspapers and giving them to the homeless instead of taking them to a recycling center or leaving them out for collection. If you live in a larger city, you may wish to leave your recyclables outside for the homeless to pick up — or give a bagful of cans to a homeless person in your neighborhood.

A lot of my guys do this.

  1. Donate clothing, a bag of groceries, toys
  1. Volunteer at a shelter, soup kitchen
  1. Volunteer your professional services

Work in IT? Help with computers for agencies. Good at writing? Volunteer to write grants for agencies. Good at accounting?  Volunteer to help finance department of shelter. Lawyers are always in need for legal concerns.  It’s hard for people to find a job when they have an old warrant on their record.

  1. Volunteer your hobbies – Every one of us has something we can give the homeless. Wherever our interests may lie — cooking, repairing, gardening, and photography — we can use them for the homeless. Through our hobbies, we can teach them useful skills, introduce them to new avocations and perhaps point them in a new direction.

I’ve been knitting and crocheting here at work, and it’s amazing how many of them comment on what I’m doing.  Maybe they’ve done it before, or loved ones have. It’s a neat way to interact with them.

  1. Volunteer for follow-up programs – Some homeless people, particularly those who have been on the street for a while, may need help with fundamental tasks such as paying bills, balancing a household budget, or cleaning. Follow-up programs to give the formerly homeless further advice, counseling, and other services need volunteers.

Living skills classes are SOOO beneficial.  I, personally, was lucky enough to grow up with parents who taught me how to interact with a bank and how to pay bills.  Some fundamental life skills that people were not taught, but they will need to remain off the streets.

  1. Volunteer at shelter or with children in a program
  1. Teach about the homeless – If you do volunteer work with the homeless, you can become an enthusiast and extend your enthusiasm to others. You can infect others with your own sense of devotion by writing letters to the editor of your local paper and by pressing housing issues at election time.

You can help reduce the prejudice against homeless people.

  1. Publish shelter information – Despite all of our efforts to spread the word about shelters, it is surprising how many people are unaware of their own local shelters. Contact your local newspapers, church or synagogue bulletins, or civic group’s newsletters about the possibility of running a weekly or monthly listing of area services available to the homeless. This could include each organization’s particular needs for volunteers, food, and other donations.

So many of my guys had no idea my agency existed. This will

  1. Educate your children about the homeless – Help your children to see the homeless as people. If you do volunteer work, take your sons and daughters along so they can meet with homeless people and see what can be done to help them. Volunteer as a family in a soup kitchen or shelter. Suggest that they sort through the toys, books, and clothes they no longer use and donate them to organizations that assist the poor.
  2. Sign up your company/school – Ask your company or school to host fund-raising events, such as raffles or craft sales and donate the proceeds to nonprofit organizations that aid the homeless. You can also ask your company or school to match whatever funds you and your co-workers or friends can raise to help the homeless.
  3. Recruit local business – One of the easiest ways to involve local businesses is to organize food and/or clothing drives. Contact local organizations to find out what is needed, approach local grocery or clothing shops about setting up containers on their premises in which people can drop off donations, ask local businesses to donate goods to the drive, and publicize the drive by placing announcements in local papers and on community bulletin boards and by posting signs and posters around your neighborhood.
  4. Create lists of needed donations – Call all the organizations in your community that aid the homeless and ask them what supplies they need on a regular basis. Make a list for each organization, along with its address, telephone number, and the name of a contact person. Then mail these lists to community organizations that may wish to help with donations — every place from religious centers to children’s organizations such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
  5. Employ the homeless – Help Wanted – General Office Work. Welfare recipient, parolee, ex-addict OK. Good salary, benefits. Will train. That’s the way Wildcat Service Corporations Supported Work Program invites the “unemployable” to learn to work and the program works! More than half the people who sign on find permanent, well-paying jobs, often in maintenance, construction, clerical, or security work.
  6. Help the homeless apply for aid – Governmental aid is available for homeless people, but many may not know where to find it or how to apply. Since they don’t have a mailing address, governmental agencies may not be able to reach them. You can help by directing the homeless to intermediaries, such as homeless organizations, that let them know what aid is available and help them to apply for it. If you want to be an advocate or intermediary for the homeless yourself, you can contact these organizations as well.
  7. Stand up for the civil rights of the homeless – In recent elections, for example, volunteers at shelters and elsewhere helped homeless people register to vote . . . even though they had “no fixed address” at the moment. Some officials would not permit citizens without a permanent address to vote.

Every year, I encourage my guys to vote.  They don’t realize they can.

  1. Join Habitat for Humanity – This Christian housing ministry builds houses for families in danger of becoming homeless. Volunteers from the community and Habitat homeowners erect the houses. Funding is through donations from churches, corporations, foundations, and individuals.
  2. Form a transitional housing program – One of the most potent homeless-prevention services a community can offer residents who are in danger of eviction is a transitional housing program. These programs help people hang on to their current residences or assist them in finding more affordable ones. The methods include steering people to appropriate social service and community agencies, helping them move out of shelters, and providing funds for rent, mortgage payments, and utilities. For information, contact the Homelessness Information Exchange at (202) 462-7551.
  3. Write to corporations – Some of the largest corporations in America have joined the battle for low-income housing. Through the use of the tax credit or by outright grants, they are participating with federal and state government, not-for-profit and community-based groups to build desperately needed housing in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and dozens of other cities. Contact various organizations and ask them what they are doing.
  4. Contact your government representatives – Our legislators rarely receive more than three visits or ten letters about any subject. When the numbers exceed that amount, they sit up and take note. Personal visits are the most potent. Letters are next; telephone calls are third best. Housing issues don’t come up that often, so your public officials will listen.

Especially on topics like affordable housing and the Housing First model.

  1. Push for state homelessness prevention programs – While states routinely supply aid for the poor and homeless, many do not have programs provide funds and other services to those who will lose their homes in the immediate future unless something is done. Homelessness comes at great financial and human cost to the families who are evicted or foreclosed.

Let me know if these are helpful or if there are others that are good but not on this list!

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Captain Kirk and Lemon Squeezy

I’ve been working on my song-writing career, trying to get it to take off.  Tell me what you think about this:

“They raise the babes and Captain Kirk

to take it lemon squeezy

Until it comes time to pay the Duke

Pop! Goes the weasel!”

This verse is a continuation of the original “Pop goes the Weasel,” and this new verse will be on the soon-to-be-released Nursery Rhymes 2.0.*

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