Sadly, more and more cities around the United States, as well as across the globe, are seeing rising rates of homelessness, caused by issues such as poverty, unemployment, natural disasters, family problems and more.
In fact, according to reports, there is likely to be more than half a million homeless people across the U.S., plus there are tent cities and other homeless encampments popping up in most major cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington D.C., and St. Louis.
With so many people facing such difficulties, it can be hard to know what to do to help. As well, if you have never had to struggle with such a situation in your life, it is even more challenging to try and understand such a circumstance or to see a positive way to make a difference.
However, whether you’re keen to enroll in a safety management degree so you can become a professional worker in the area, or just want to do your bit or teach your children how to help, there are plenty of options to consider. Read on for some ways that you can help people facing homelessness today.
One of the first things it pays to do if you want to help the homeless population is to educate yourself on the issue. Keep in mind that there are many different reasons why people become homeless, so it’s important no t to stereotype and to be informed instead.
Some of the reasons why a person may end up with no fixed address include domestic abuse, divorce, lack of affordable housing, substance abuse, natural disasters, job loss, illness and injuries, and more. Learn what you can about the many issues behind homelessness, especially how people end up in the predicament, and you will be much more likely to be able to help appropriately in the future.
Volunteer Your Time
Of course, if you want to be on the frontlines, so to speak, and interact with people who are homeless at the same time as you help them, you might decide to volunteer your time every week or month.
There are many different ways that you can go about this. For example, you may choose to spend some time on a regular basis at your local homeless shelter. At these facilities you may be tasked with jobs such as serving food, signing people in, babysitting youngsters, answering phones, cleaning, repairing things, washing dishes, sorting mail, distributing clothing and other items, being a shoulder to cry on, and anything else that is required.
Many soup kitchens that supply the homeless and other disadvantaged members of the community with sustenance are also often looking for volunteers to help out. Again, there are many different tasks to complete at these venues. You might do things such as picking up food donations, washing dishes, preparing meals, or serving food and drinks.
Donate Clothing and Other Goods
A simple but very effective way to help the homeless is to donate goods which they can use. Most shelters, religious centers, and other facilities are always on the lookout for good quality clothing and shoes for all ages, genders, and seasons, as well as blankets, pillows, non-perishable food items, small kitchen items, books, sleeping bags, and more.
Apart from donating goods which will be used directly by homeless individuals, you can also donate items that help shelters and other not-for-profit organizations to do their work. These types of places are often in need of supplies such as stationery, computers, ink cartridges, paper, pens, envelopes, phone cards, modems, and so on.
Be an Advocate
If you like to look at the bigger picture and want to help reduce the number of people who have to face homelessness in your community or country, consider becoming a vocal advocate for the disadvantaged. For starters, you can become a fundraiser or organizer of events and food drives to help raise funds and donations for local community groups.
You might also like to get in touch with politicians, media outlets, and agencies to help drive support for relevant organizations, and/or get involved in creating policies and initiatives which are designed to help end homelessness. You might also like to speak up and educate your community on what can be done to help reduce homelessness.
Lastly, one of the best things you can do to help homeless people in your community and those you see or meet when you travel is to be respectful. Keep in mind that many homeless people feel like they are invisible because they are so often ignored.
Every little bit of kindness can have a far-reaching effect, so take the time to smile, acknowledge, and chat to homeless people as you go. It is important to treat the homeless as individuals and to afford them the same respect and courtesy you would if they were your co-workers, friends, or family members.