How Can I Help People Experiencing Homelessness?
Homelessness is a global crisis that affects people all around our nation and the world. If you’ve read the report on Understanding Homelessness or have somehow stumbled upon this article, you'll find that the first step in helping to combat this crisis is understanding the unspoken causes and circumstances that lead to a life lived on the streets. Learn more here for an introduction on the causes of homelessness.
In learning about the cause itself, you'll find there are many people and organizations that are working to help those experiencing homelessness on a grass roots level and we are so thankful for that. Despite this effort, we will all cross paths with someone occasionally who we know does not have a home to go to at night. As people, and fellow neighbors amongst all, we know that walking past someone in need removes a part of ourself that makes us human. It goes against the way we are created to live: in love and support for one another.
Understandably, not everyone is always comfortable helping others the same ways. But through different methods we can all work together to make an impact and help those in need. That's why we've put together a list of different ways that you can personally help those affected by homelessness:
Volunteer: Organizations that serve the homeless community can always use some extra help! Additionally, volunteering often offers the opportunity to connect with this community firsthand. If you have a specialized skill, such as website design or accounting, see if your services could be of use. Your time, your respect and your smile can go a long way in helping those affected by homelessness feel seen and supported. Check out these places in Southern California, this volunteer resource from the city of LA, or use this directory, provided by the National Coalition for the Homeless, to find a way to lend a hand.
Donate: If you have the resources, a donation can help support shelters, food pantries and other important organizations. Gently used items, such as clothing (especially clean socks), unopened toiletries and personal care items, reading glasses, school supplies and toys, blankets, and durable bags, are also appreciated by shelters, who can distribute them appropriately. Consider making a financial donation to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which combats homelessness nationwide, or to Union Rescue Mission, which offers emergency and faith-based support to the homeless community in Los Angeles. Use this directory to locate shelters in your neighborhood if you’d like to donate locally or offer gently used items.
Spread Awareness: Talk to your family and friends about this issue, or share this article. Continue educating yourself about homelessness, and share what you learn with others. Treat people struggling with homelessness with respect and dignity and encourage others to do the same. Read more about issue with the Understanding Homelessness project, search for resources from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and follow any updates to the issue in the news.
Advocate: Advocacy can take many forms. Consider advocating for individuals experiencing homelessness by acknowledging those you meet, saying hello and treating them with respect. A kind word, or a thoughtful listening ear can mean a lot to those who are struggling. Keep extra dry bars and water bottles in your car or purse to hand out. Set an example of treating those affected by homelessness with dignity, love, and respect. Or perhaps consider advocating by asking your elected officials to provide more funding to social services and supporting policies aimed at eliminating homelessness. Helping an individual experiencing homelessness register to vote is another excellent way to help this population be seen. Keep those affected by homelessness in your thoughts and prayers. Organize with your community, such as your church or your neighborhood, to fundraise, volunteer and talk about this issue. Explore this overview for more advocacy ideas.
Mentoring & Fostering: To help those experiencing homelessness, or at-risk of becoming homeless, a support system is crucial. Volunteering as a mentor offers you the opportunity to help become a part of this system for someone in need. This is especially important for youth, who rely on a mentor’s guidance and support as they navigate the challenges of growing up and transitioning to adulthood. You never know who’s life you can support by just being present and available. To learn more about the impact mentoring can have, check out this article from the LA Times. To explore mentoring opportunities in LA, visit Peace4Kids or for national opportunities, explore these resources. If the commitment of foster parenting is an option for you, learn more here in LA or here nationally.
Join Life Originelle: Join us at Life Originelle as we strive to bring needed attention and support to the problem of homelessness. We stand at the intersection of fashion, faith and philanthropy to support people locally and globally. Our current cause of the season is to be a helping hand to women and children impacted by homelessness during COVID-19.
In fact, a desire to help those experiencing homelessness inspired the creation of Life Originelle. Our founder, Margaret, shares her story:
Born and raised in LA, I've seen the homelessness crisis grow as each year continues. I’d see those experiencing homelessness every day on my way to work, and felt helpless and heartbroken for them. My day should have been spent thinking about the work I was in: fashion, tech, and marketing. But it would be spent thinking about the man or woman I saw at the exit before getting to work. I'd often find myself in situations that some would call dangerous, as I tried to help. As these faces become more familiar than not, I tried every way to cope with the issue. Ignoring it never worked. Blaming the individuals went against all that was true within me. And trying to help made me feel even more helpless. Finally, I prayed to see and treat this issue as God would, and that's when an approach came to my heart. It was in realizing that we were all created equally, and that we’re all people, with names and stories. I began asking people their names and felt the appreciation almost immediately. I would tell them I honestly couldn't imagine what they were going through, because I couldn't. Now when I go out knowing I may see someone on my way to my destination, I pack snacks for two. When having a simple convo I try to ask how their day is going and how I can pray for them as I jot their name down to always remember. If time allows, I ask for their story, and as their hearts open up we begin to build a trust that the world rarely offers them. This approach allowed me to cross the bridge from avoiding to encouraging people experiencing homelessness. My search for a solution to helping people in need intertwined with my experiences in tech and fashion, and has now come to be fully realized by Life Originelle as we roll out our full launch in Fall 2020.
Join our efforts by packing for two – take an extra water bottle, face mask, or snack, for example, when you leave for the day – so you can share when you encounter someone experiencing homeless. You can also offer them with valuable support and encouragement by keeping a few post it notes on you with loving messages and local resource centers. Include the national 211 hotline phone number and the closest shelters near your city. And always remember to ask them their name. Join us at Life Originelle in re-shaping fashion into a force for good, offering humanity, faith, love and support to those experiencing homelessness.
Recent graduate from Harvard College and is passionate about elevating marginalized voices through storytelling.