One of the best ways to help the homeless is to lift their spirits. It is stressful to be homeless. At the very start, you can't own much more than you can carry. If you are lucky and can still afford a storage facility you can put some family keepsakes there. Some people lose the ability to pay for the storage and are regulated to what they can keep in a car or a van, and for some, leaving means leaving in the middle of the night or day to avoid an abusive spouse or parent. For those people their belongings might be merely the clothes on their backs.

In my small community the ambulance service accepts donations of stuffed animals which they give to children in traumatic situations that they pick up. I suggest you pass on only nice toys, clean and new ones. It can be demoralizing further for a traumatized kid, victim of sexual or physical abuse to receive a junky old time. Don't try to justify it, by remembering how much the toy cost when it was new. Used is used. Try to put yourself in their position. Just because they are poor or disenfranchised doesn't mean they want old junk.

It's something to think about all year and not just at Christmas. If you have a neighbor who is overwhelmed, ask if there is something you can do. Walk their dog if they are too elderly to get out? Tutor their kid if they have more than they can handle? Or just befriend a lonely kid whose parents both work. There's an awful lot of kids turning to gangs, drugs and crime out of boredom who could use a friend. Many of the homeless youth are so distrustful, based on their life experiences it may take a few encounters before you can get them to open up. The better ones, the ones who are not totally hard, hang out at public libraries and other "safe" places, public parks etc., trying to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. If you realize a kid is at the library all the time, unattended, alone, strike up a friendship and see what happens.

There are also charitable organizations such as "Handmade Especially for You" which link well meaning people to people who need a lift. Leslye Borden started Handmade, a group which gives beautiful and unique scarves to women who live in shelters. The thought is, that kindness will give these women hope. On her website she has posted free patterns to knit or crochet scarves and you can mail them to her when completed at:

Handmade Especially for You c/o Leslye Borden
30065 Grandpoint
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

This group is non-profit. She is careful to send no two identical scarves to the same shelter. Isn't that neat? The website offers to send you yarn. Since this is a charity, I think it would be great to pay for your own postage and yarn. You can also send cash donations of course. Even a beginner can make a flat rectangular project. If you don't know how to knit or crochet, it takes less than a day to learn. Even a child can do it. Crochet is very relaxing too! If you really want to go green with it, use recycled yard from websites like "Darn Good Yarn" which makes yarn from old saris.

Here are two of the free patterns from the website:


Chain 21 stitches.

ROW 1:

- 1 single crochet in the 6th stitch from the hook.
- Chain 5.
- Skip 3 chains.
- 1 single crochet in the next chain.
- Repeat to end of row
- Chain 5 and turn

ROW 2:

- 1 single crochet into the next chin 5 arch. Repeat from ** to end of row.**
Chain 5 and turn.

- Repeat Row 2 until work from the beginning measures 60 inches.

- Pull yarn through last single crochet to fasten.

- Make fringe. Cut 36 lengths of yarn. Each piece of yarn should be 12 inches
long. Fold in half and pull through all four corners and each arch on the
bottom edges.

Sign the card with your name and any good wishes you have for the recipient.


♦ Crochet hooks J and K
♦ Soft #4 weight yarn

On K hook, chain 152 stitches, enough to make a scarf about 60 inches long.
Switch to J hook.

ROW 1: Double crochet in 3th chain from hook. Double crochet to end.
Chain 2 and turn.

ROW 2: Double crochet in 2nd stitch. Double crochet to end. Chain 2 and turn.

Repeat Row 2 until scarf is 5 inches wide. Double crochet last stitch. Pull yarn through loop to fasten off. Hide ends.

Add fringe if desired.

The organization gave away over 6,500 scarves last year in the state of California. They hope to give away ten thousand this year as well as expand to other states eventually.

Another way to help homeless people is to stop enabling them. If the reason they are homeless is because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, please please please STOP giving them money to buy their drugs. You may give with trepidation things such as warm socks or jackets, because a junkie will sell even stuff like that. Never mind if the price tag is still attached. I have a friend who gave her cocaine addicted sister a birthday party and a sweater. My friend was in tears when her sister split immediately after receiving the sweater. The sister had exchanged the sweater for drugs in less than half an hour.

My friend, strangely enough, was more upset about the ruined birthday party. She didn't seem to understand she had endangered her sister's life by gifting her with further access to drugs. One might argue that her sister would get drugs one way or another, which is true. But you don't have to aid and abet a drug addict. Rock bottom hits sooner if you won't.