8 Ways to Help the Homeless This Summer
7/13/2015 10:12 AM
You see them holding signs by the highway asking for money. You see them sleeping on park benches. You want to help, but you’re not sure how. Here are some ideas for helping the homeless in our community this summer—in big and small ways.
1. Refer them to 2-1-1. The best way to help homeless people access services is by encouraging them to call 2-1-1 on any phone. 211 is a centralized system by which people in need are connected with appropriate services—everything from shelter to food to emergency day care. We are pleased to have this system in Milwaukee, and it is the best way for anyone to access services, including Hope House. Visit IMPACT 211 to learn more.
2. Volunteer to serve a meal. If you’d like to be helpful in a hands-on way, find a shelter or meal program near you that could use volunteers. Try the Cathedral Center in downtown Milwaukee or Guest House on Juneau and 13th, for opportunities to serve meals with a group of family, friends, church members or school members.
3. Donate in kind. Homeless people are in need of everything from toothpaste to food to socks. The best way to get these items to people in need is through a shelter or service organization. Most organizations post a list of their current needs on their website. Ours is here. Just make sure that whatever you donate is in good quality—good enough that you’d use it yourself. Homeless people deserve the same dignity and health as everyone else.
4. Share a smile. Even the simplest gestures make a difference. Instead of looking away or frowning when you see a homeless person on the street, offer a smile.
5. Educate yourself. Take some time to really learn about the issue of homelessness—its causes and solutions. Websites for organizations like the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are great places to start. You can also follow Hope House on Facebook or Twitter where we often post news articles and learning opportunities.
6. Correct a stereotype. After you’ve educated yourself, you are well equipped to correct the negative and false stereotypes that persist in our culture today about homeless people. If you overhear someone saying, “Homeless people are just lazy bums,” respond with the facts: that according to the most recent data 44% of homeless people are actually employed. If you hear someone ask, “Why would I help the homeless? They’re just a bunch of drug addicted men,” share the facts: that only 26% of homeless people abuse drugs, and that 37% of homeless people are actually in families.
7. Give granola bars, water, etc. when you see people out. It’s so easy to carry around a granola bar in your car or purse, and that small contribution can help someone get through a day when they’re not sure where their next meal is coming from. If you feel uncomfortable giving money to someone begging, give food or water instead.
8. Donate financially. The best way to make a difference in the lives of the homeless is to support the organizations that are dedicated to doing just that. Whether they provide meals, education, case management, or, in our case, all of the above, these social service agencies work tirelessly to get people out of homelessness. Click here to make a donation to Hope House.
Thanks for making a difference in the lives of the homeless!
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeldman/15588411310/