According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the two U.S states with the highest rates of homelessness are California and New York. As of 2020, in California, 126 out of every 10,000 people are experiencing homelessness; and in New York, 94 out of every 10,000 people. Going further with California, the city of San Francisco has the fourth-highest rate of people that experience homelessness in the nation, along with the country’s highest housing wage, which could be problematic for low-income individuals to secure and maintain affordable housing in the area. This causes the rate of homelessness to increase year by year, especially in major cities. We may either live in or near those major cities. How could we – as the public – help those currently experiencing homelessness that we may only see in passing?
One way is to donate your new and gently used items to a homeless shelter or directly to the individuals. This may include clothing, toiletries, personal care items, and other essential supplies. Ask your local shelters if they require specific items that you could find within your home or buy at the store. Also, do not be afraid to ask if there is anything that the unhoused individual could need. It could be difficult for them to ask for help, so ask them if they need anything and try to help them out as best as possible.
When it comes to donations, you can donate money or even food and drinks. Some individuals may only want a meal or a few dollars to get them through the day. It could be difficult for these individuals to find secure jobs that accept them for their situations. So, if you are willing and able to, consider giving them what you can because these gestures may go a long way in supporting a group that experiences many systemic obstructions to resources.
Another way to help those experiencing homelessness is to acknowledge them. Those that experience homelessness are humans too and crave human connection. Say hi to them or ask them how they are doing. This interaction can help establish a sense of humanity for both parties, which is important given that everyone might need someone to talk to. Also, be mindful of how you address people experiencing homelessness and avoid sounding condescending. Remind yourself that they are people and deserve to be treated as human beings. Be kind.
Going back to asking the individuals what they may need, offer to pay for some sort of temporary shelter when the weather is not in their favor. It could be challenging to find available spots in homeless shelters for them to cleanse themselves and have somewhere safe to sleep for the night. With these obstructions in mind, it would mean a lot that someone like you could give them a helping hand by helping them procure shelter in inclement weather.
Finally, another way to support the cause is to volunteer in programs that could help benefit the individuals that experience homelessness in your local area. That could be at a soup kitchen, setting up snacks and meals, distributing boxes of food and necessities to them, facilitating support groups, and many more! There is a wide array of volunteering opportunities, so do your research on the local outreach opportunities and do what sparks some interest for you.
The bottom line is that these are only a few ways of helping those who experience homelessness near you, but they are essential to implement when you see these individuals who would love a helping hand. There are many ways to help them, but starting small and simple is okay. Be kind and know those experiencing homelessness deserve the same respect and mindfulness as all other human beings.