It is a sad but true fact that the homeless populations are increasing in numbers in our society today. Many homeless people who were victims of hardships in their lives are struggling to survive on our streets without a roof over their heads and don’t know where or when they will get their next meal. Have you ever passed homeless people on the streets wanting to help, but unsure of what to do? Ever thought about reaching out to homeless in your community?
I had a different blog post planned for today, but then I came across some disturbing statistics about those who are currently unemployed and how some government programs have been cut in the past year or two, resulting in a higher homeless population in America. I viewed this as my Divine diversion for today, feeling a strong need to encourage people who may have thought of reaching out to less fortunate folks, but may not be quite sure how to begin going about it. Think about those things that you may take for granted on any given day: having a place to lay your head to sleep with a roof to protect you, a bed to sleep in, running water and soap to take a bath or shower, a refrigerator with food in it, clothes and shoes to wear. These are all things you and I may feel are just simple necessities of life. But for many on the streets, these things would be a luxury. We encourage you to consider reaching out in your community to those who could use some donations or just a kind word now and then.
Here are some tips based on our own experiences which may help you with reaching out to homeless in your community:
- Visit your local municipality community relations office or police department and ask them if they know where homeless populations may be located in your local areas.
- Ask them also if there are organizations that assist the homeless in your community. You may want to contact these organizations to volunteer your time, assistance or perhaps make a donation of money or items which may be helpful in their efforts. Ask them about their needs and they will be happy to tell you how best to assist them.
- When you approach homeless folks, don’t be afraid to talk to them! Homeless folks are mostly just people like you and me who have fallen on hard times and/or have been victims of unimaginable circumstances. Many have testimonies to share of difficult struggles and trials in their lives. Most all are certainly not homeless by choice. They should not be judged and we should never turn our backs on them. Any one of us could be in a similar situation if not for fate and different choices or paths we have chosen to take in our lives. Show them compassion, kindness and generosity.
- Bring them donations of items they desperately need. Typical needs are clean clothes (especially socks and underwear), toiletries to use to cleanup and make a good appearance (soap, deodorant, shampoo, combs, brushes, shaving cream, razors and nail clippers)
- Bring them Water: bottled water is important for them to have on hand if they are living in a tent or camp-like area to be used for cleaning up as well as drinking.
- Provide them with opportunities to get food: Restaurant or grocery store gift cards for places where they can get out of the weather for a bit and get something to eat, and perhaps a cup of coffee. Look for local, easy to travel by foot fast food restaurants that serve coffee. If you feel comfortable, have them join you at a nearby restaurant for a meal and coffee – most would love to talk to you if you show an interest in their story.
- Bring donations of weather-appropriate items for your community areas such as blankets, gloves, hats and scarves if the weather is cold.
- If you introduce them to someone, please call them your friend, do not refer to them as “homeless.” They deserve respect just as anyone else, and should not be labeled by society.
- Please tell everyone you know about the homeless in your community to spread awareness about their needs. Share their stories, so people will know they are real folks who are need of their compassion.
- Never go alone when you are performing outreach efforts – many of the homeless are completely harmless, but there are some who will prey on others. Travel in numbers and in daylight hours. Keep your cell phone handy and let people know what you are doing and where you will be going.
We have felt a strong calling to do homeless outreach in our area, after seeing the needs of those less fortunate. God certainly is working through us to be there for these folks as much as possible, but he is also working through these folks to bless us in a grand way for His glory. We feel honored that we can serve such an amazing God!
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Bible, King James Version