10 Ideas for How to Help the Homeless
1 We go to where the homeless live on the streets. (We do not go to the homeless scattered in the canyons and backcountry.) We park our car, get out, walk the streets and meet them.
2 We greet them and tell them that we have water and whatever else we have with us that day, and ask if they need some of those things. We usually keep our supplies in a garden wagon that we pull behind us.
3 We ask their names, shake their hands when possible and hug them when they want hugged.
4 We talk to those who want to talk to us. We meet brilliant, unemployed people who have PHDs, people who are mentally ill and make no sense, and lots of people somewhere between those extremes.
5 We ask them what they need that they have difficulty finding. Tarps are the number one request in winter. New, clean underwear is also high on the list. Those who sleep in a shelter at night have fewer needs. Those who sleep outdoors have a greater need for warm clothing, sleeping bags, blankets and that sort of thing when the weather is cold.
6 Since we buy almost everything we give away, we try to find sources for decent quality products at a good price. For example, we have sources for inexpensive, bulk supplies of soap, shampoo, lotion, razors. toothbrushes, toothpaste, Q-tips and so on. (Hotel supply companies and dollar stores)
7 We work with a local food distribution group to acquire inexpensive supplies of fruit, crackers, cookies and similar products that are packed in small packages.
8 We have an inexpensive source for 6 X 8 tarps with corner grommets for wet weather use (Harbor Freight – $1.99).
9 We scour garage sales, thrift shops, and swap meets to find used clothing, backpacks, sleeping bags and similar items that are in good condition. We do not give away new clothing, except socks and underwear. (I’ll explain why in the “Do’s and Don’ts” in the following post). We wash the clothing, fold and label it with the size on a strip of masking tape and put a stack on our wagon.
10 Our friend David, who goes with us each time, always brings a couple of dozen packages of baby wipes (great for cleaning dirty hands), and a few other people give us used clothing. Two other friends give us bags of new socks and occasionally tarps.
Water, food, toiletries, clothes, and similar items are temporary help at best. Some people assume that hundreds of churches and individuals hand out these sorts of things to the homeless. That doesn’t happen. Christmas may be big, but the rest of the year is hit and miss.
We frequently hear comments such as “That’s the first water I’ve had since yesterday,” “I’m wearing the only pair of pants I’ve had for six months and they’re full of holes,” “I haven’t had any clean underwear for months,” “We’ve been under the bridge at night with the addicts and are afraid to go to sleep. With these tarps we can get away from them and sleep at night.”
From time to time we see efforts by Christians and churches to “evangelize” the homeless and tell them about Jesus. We assume something of the message must get through, but have observed that is not always the case.
Do we they people about Jesus? We’ll talk about that in a future post.
Until then, have you discovered ways to help your homeless friends? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.
Thank you to Sam Riviera for writing these great tips and for going out and making a difference please see this and other great posts at redeeminggod.com