10 Ways To Help The Homeless During This Record-Setting Cold Weather
Much of America is experiencing potentially record setting cold temperatures today and tomorrow. For as miserable as that is for most of us, we get relief the second we step inside our home, office and car. I ask that you please think about the homeless during this freezing cold weather and consider doing one or more of the following to help them:
1. Pick up some gift cards at wherever you get your coffee — Cumberland Farms, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonalds — and hand them out to any homeless people you see. Not only will you provide a means to nourish them, your kindness will act as a deliberate catalyst to get them out of the cold. It also gives them the opportunity to use the bathroom which is a luxury when you are homeless. Please be aware, due to addiction issues within the homeless population, it’s always better to give a gift card than cash which could potentially be used to fuel the addiction.
2. Grab any extra scarves, gloves and hats that are collecting dust in your closet, toss them in your bag and give them to any homeless people who look like they need them.
3. Look the homeless person in the eye and engage them in conversation. One of the biggest and saddest problems with being homeless is people avoid eye contact with you. Imagine how dignity-stripping that is for the homeless person. It’s heartbreaking.
4. When you are speaking to a homeless person, ask them their name and refer to their name during the conversation. Again, this simple gesture helps restore some dignity to their lives.
5. Let the homeless person talk and listen. Genuinely listen. Empathize. Many homeless people are isolated all day long and can go days, weeks and months without having a conversation with someone. You will see they have a lot to say and everybody has a story.
6. If you are someplace where there are a lot of retail stores and you see a homeless person wearing a completely inadequate jacket, if you have the means, please consider popping into a store and buying them a warm coat. Everything is on sale right now and you can get something toasty, waterproof and durable for under $75. The gratitude you will receive from the homeless person will be better than any reaction from any gift you have given someone in your life. I promise.
7. Mention a homeless shelter in your area by name during your conversation and ask if the homeless person knows about it. Respectfully and gently encourage them to go to the shelter since the temperatures will be dangerously cold. Don’t force them if they decline but try to get them to consider going to a shelter even if it’s just for one day or one night.
8. If you have the means, consider calling an UberX to take the homeless person to the shelter if it appears too far to walk. Tip the Uber driver $20 or something and explain what you are doing. You will find that most drivers are happy to help.
9. Make a donation to your local homeless shelter. If you live in a suburb where there aren’t any homeless shelters, donate to one in the nearest city. The shelters are losing funding due to budget cuts and this will negatively impact their ability to service the homeless. The shelters are a homeless person’s lifeline and lives are saved every single day thanks to the kind souls who work and volunteer at shelters.
10. Don’t judge. Many homeless people are mentally ill. Many have addiction issues. Many will appear disheveled. Some may have a bad odor. Homeless people have likely been judged for much of their adult life by family, friends and even strangers. You have a unique opportunity to be the one person who doesn’t judge them. Accept them for who they are. Nobody wants to be homeless and most are ashamed of their situation. If you want to really make their day and it feels safe to do so, give them a hug. Tell them to never give up. Let them know you will hold love in your heart for them.