Helping the homeless seems like a terribly daunting task. Every day there are more of them. One child in ten will spend some of his or her life under the poverty level. The newspapers may be reporting that the recession is over. Lots of kids don't even know what a newspaper is! Jobs are still disappearing in California. As people fall off of the unemployment records because their benefits have run out, some have still not found new work. Because of this, the statistics may be misleading. We should all do something to help with the homeless, especially if it really helps. Here are some ideas:
1. Do something personal. Helping one person or one family one on one is not just more powerful it's actually more helpful. With your own resources you can decide if the person if worth helping, is it a family member having trouble relocating or a chronic drunk? Welfare makes no such distinction. In fact, in California addiction is considered a "disease." Unfortunately, many addicts chose to stay "sick" in order to continue receiving benefits which they will lose if they sober up.
2. Do something long term. There is a corny old saying, that is nonetheless true: give a man a fish and he eats for one day, teach him to fish and he will eat for a life time. If you have skills, even something as innocuous as the ability to send email, it would be life changing to teach another person how they can get a free internet address and teach them how to sign up for job searches on line. One of the main challenges to being homeless is the lack physical address, and often the lack of phone service. Being able to have a steady email address can really help a person.
3. Do something that appeals to you. If you have a hobby of crocheting, or knitting, why not knit or crochet blankets for women at a battered womens' shelter, or make hats and scarves for men at a homeless shelter? It would combine a love you have already with a charitable act. Plus, people like having homemade things, it makes them feel valuable and warm and fuzzy. By the time many of them land at a shelter they feel beat down and depressed. Too often shelter donations are the worst of the worst: blankets with stains on them, clothes with holes, trash really. So if you are going to donate, it's great when you can donate something nice.
4. Do something that will continue giving: many people end up homeless through no fault of their own. They're call children, and they can't be faulted for having checked out drug addled parents. If you can take an interest in a child before he or she becomes jaded and drug addicted as well, you could give them a life skill that may set a new course for them. Read books, or tutor a homeless child. A child that is able to teach himself or herself, will have a much better chance in life. You may be the kid's only way out. I am not suggesting you take them home and adopt them, just teach them a skill, if you have one: wood working, car mechanics, sewing, that will help them support themselves one day.
There are other things you can do on a seasonal basis. Close to mother's day, take some nice flowers to woman's shelter. I guarantee you will find some mother's there and that will make their day. On Thanksgiving offer to serve food. On Christmas be someone's angel. Find out what they really need for themselves or their kids and get it for them. Don't feel it has to be something practical. A child is a child, and probably wants the latest toy.
There is also a whole host of things that you should NOT do for homeless people, because it will not help them. If the person is a drug addict, please please please do NOT give them money. No matter how sad the story they spin, they are manipulating you to give them money for drugs. Even if you give them a nice jacket or a new electric blanket to stay warm they may use it for drugs. Buy them food if they are hungry, offer them a ride to AA if you are so inclined, but do NOT help them kill themselves or endanger others with their addictions.
The reason some people are homeless is not because they need job skills but because they need an attitude adjustment. If the homeless person you know has entitlement issues, you may be feeding their ego in the wrong direction. You are not required to house a 30 year old slacker who has chosen to live off of the bounty of their friends. Sure the economy is tough, make a deadline and some goals and stick to them. Tell your grown children they may come home if they are enrolled in some kind of continuing education, or actively job seeking. Don't let them just mooch. It isn't good for them or you.
I have a friend who felt she just "had" to let her daughter move back in because the poor girl didn't have a job. One wonders what the girl does with all of her free time. It appears she meets men, because now my friend is supporting her daughter, her daughter's boyfriend and their baby. Why doesn't she require anyone to get a job? Because of that precious baby! She wonders how she will pay for the baby's medical bills. Quite frankly, I think if she kicked her daughter out the STATE would pay her to foster the kid. She'd be making money instead of supporting three additional people. She perceives she's helping these kids. She defends her behavior hotly. And yet, I have to wonder if she isn't robbing her daughter of the wonderful experience of being a grownup and having a functional relationship and the ability to create her own family, and a host of other things.