A Few Ways To Help The Homeless

Whenever I see a homeless person standing on the corner with a sign, or sitting on the side of the road alone, it breaks my heart in half. 

I wonder how they got there. I want to know what their childhood was like. Have they always felt invisible?

What happened in life to bring this on? Was it a series of bad choices, mental illness, addiction, or a whole lot of bad luck? I want to know their story-- because in the end we all have a story, and that's what connects us in life.

According to the United Nations, there are at least 100 million homeless in the world today. That's a huge number. I know we can't help everyone, but how many are right here in your own hometown, or just down the street from you? 

I love this little documentary about a few guys who hit the streets of Atlanta to interact with the homeless: 

I know a lot of people don't like to give out cash, so here are a few other ways to help:

---Host a fundraising dinner. Some friends of ours recently held a dinner called, "Hotdogs for the Homeless." Their kids invite friends to come over for a fun hotdog cookout in their backyard. They charged a $1.50 a plate, and all proceeds went to a local homeless shelter. It was such a great way to get the kids involved. 

---Just stop and take the time to say "Hello." A few years ago, we were on our way to Colorado and stopped for a night in Santa Fe. We were struck by all the homeless we saw there. After a walk through the park that evening, it left our kids with tears streaming down their faces. It was the middle of winter and so cold outside. We had nothing to give, and I mean that literally. We had just moved and were barely scraping by. We may not have had anything physical to offer them, but we did have kindness and love, and that goes a long way. We talked about it that night and the next morning on our walk up to St. Francis' Cathedral, we made an effort to stop and talk to every homeless person who came in our path.  We asked their names, where they were from, and the kids asked cute questions like, "do you like to make snowballs?" We left each person with a smile.  It was amazing how much eye contact, and a simple hello can mean to someone. It's a way of saying "I see you, and you matter."  

---Volunteer at a soup kitchen. We've looked into a lot of soup kitchens in our area and several of them require you to be 18 or older, but many cities offer safe alternatives for families with children, like stocking food pantry shelves, or reading to other children who are in homeless shelters.

---Donate food. Every Thanksgiving we fill up a food box for the Salvation Army. Our kids have a lot of fun shopping for the items on the list and adding in extra things like stickers, small toys, chocolate, and hand written notes.

---Carry homeless kits in your car. Some of our best friends had this idea, and over our Christmas break we had our kids assemble them together. You could seriously put anything in your bag, but here's a list of what we put in ours:

  • I gallon size bag {for holding all the supplies}
  • mini first-aid kit
  • package of tissues
  • Snickers bar
  • $10 cash
  • bag of trail mix
  • beef jerky
  • water bottle
  • lotion
  • chapstick
  • a pair of gloves
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • package of wipes
  • a handwritten bible verse about not losing hope 

I apologize for the bad pictures below {our camera lens is not great for evening, indoor shots} But still you get the idea, right? It was so much fun putting these together!

We lined up all the kids on the floor, and packaged the supplies in assembly-line style. 

"It is in the shelter of each other that the people live."
-- Irish proverb