Ways You Can Help the Homeless and No, It Doesn’t Include Just Handing Them Money

Saw this *parable on Facebook today:

The $50 Lesson

Recently, while I was working in the flower beds in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog. During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day. Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, “If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?” She replied… “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.” Her parents beamed with pride!

“Wow…what a worthy goal!” I said. “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that!” I told her. “What do you mean?” she replied. So I told her, “You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I’ll pay you $50. Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out and give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.”

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?”

I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”

Her parents aren’t speaking to me anymore.

As usual, the comments were ridiculous and hateful – it scares me how ignorant people are sometimes.

And as usual, people took this parable way too literally. Pay attention, the moral is: help the homeless regain some self-respect without making them dependent. Training the homeless to become dependent on handouts and government programs is cruel and counter productive. Want to help a homeless person? Then help THEM help THEMSELVES.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Understand who the homeless are – Help dispel the stereotypes about the homeless. Learn about the different reasons for homelessness, and remember, every situation is unique.

Nobody aspires to be homeless – difficult and often times out-of-our-control circumstances lands people in a homeless situation. Try not to judge – you have no idea how, or why, the homeless person you see/interact with is where he/she is. I think oft times, we often assume it’s because the person is lazy, or a drug addict, or … whatever. And that might be the case, but until you know for sure, save your judgement.

2. Respect the homeless as individuals – Give the homeless people the same courtesy and respect you would accord your friends, your family, your employer. Treat them as you would wish to be treated if you needed assistance.

They’re people – not animals. ‘Nuff said.

3. Develop lists of shelters – Carry a card that lists local shelters so you can hand them out to the homeless. You can find shelters in your phone book.

LOVE this suggestion. Our country was built on charities – we have some of the most generous people in the world living in our country and there is always help around every corner – the challenge is finding it. Excellent suggestion.

4. Take extra food – It’s as simple as taking a few extra sandwiches when you go out. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer him or her something to eat. If you take a lunch, pack a little extra. When you eat at a restaurant, order something to take with you when you leave.

5. Give money – One of the most direct ways to aid the homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless go a long way.

Notice the article is not suggesting you give money to the person, but rather, give money to organizations that help the homeless. It’s way more effective and efficient and if the homeless person really wants your help, then he/she will gracefully accept it. I’m always suspicious of people who only want money. Money is easily expendable and if you’re supplying an addict, useless.

6. Donate clothing – Next time you do your spring or fall cleaning, keep an eye out for those clothes that you no longer wear. If these items are in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations that provide housing for the homeless.

7. Donate a bag of groceries – Load up a bag full of nonperishable groceries, and donate it to a food drive in your area. If your community doesn’t have a food drive, organize one. Contact your local soup kitchens, shelters, and homeless societies and ask what kind of food donations they would like.

8. Volunteer at a shelter – Shelters thrive on the work of volunteers, from those who sign people in, to those who serve meals, to others who counsel the homeless on where to get social services. For the homeless, a shelter can be as little as a place to sleep out of the rain or as much as a step forward to self-sufficiency.

9. Volunteer your professional services – No matter what you do for a living, you can help the homeless with your on-the-job talents and skills. Those with clerical skills can train those with little skills. Doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and dentists can treat the homeless in clinics. Lawyers can help with legal concerns. The homeless’ needs are bountiful — your time and talent won’t be wasted.

10. Tutor homeless children – A tutor can make all the difference. Just having adult attention can spur children to do their best. Many programs exist in shelters, transitional housing programs, and schools that require interested volunteers. Or begin you own tutor volunteer corps at your local shelter. It takes nothing more than a little time.

11. Educate your children about the homeless – Help your children to see the homeless as people. If you do volunteer work, take your sons and daughters along so they can meet with homeless people and see what can be done to help them. Volunteer as a family in a soup kitchen or shelter. Suggest that they sort through the toys, books, and clothes they no longer use and donate them to organizations that assist the poor.

12. Employ the homeless – Help Wanted – General Office Work. Welfare recipient, parolee, ex-addict OK. Good salary, benefits. Will train. That’s the way Wildcat Service Corporations Supported Work Program invites the “unemployable” to learn to work and the program works! More than half the people who sign on find permanent, well-paying jobs, often in maintenance, construction, clerical, or security work.

Oh look, this last example leads us back to the parable.

Helping the homeless is not a Democrat or a Republican responsibility, it’s a human responsibility. However, even though sympathetic people may mean well by giving handouts, they are actually hurting the homeless in the long run. We need to shatter this illusion that we have built over the years that simply giving things away is the best way to “help” people – it’s not – it’s making people dependent. Programs are designed to HELP people, not SUPPORT people; why is this so hard to understand??

Let’s HELP our homeless get back on their feet. Let’s HELP our homeless become independent and self-sufficient again. Let’s HELP our homeless regain their pride.

*In case you don’t know what a parable is:

A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. Though the meaning of a parable is often not explicitly stated, the meaning is not usually intended to be hidden or secret but on the contrary quite straightforward and obvious.

P.S. I should really take the time to edit before I publish a post – UGH – my apologizes.

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Karen

Hi! My day job is a CMA in neurosurgery.. I'm a mom to two twenty-something sons. I've been married to the same man for 26 years. I have a lot to say about nothing. Lucky you.