How You Can Really Help The Homeless

by Pam on October 20, 2010

After reading Under the Overpass I will never look at a homeless person the same way again.  Although in the past I had volunteered in a place where I rubbed shoulders with homeless people, I could never really fully imagine what it might be like to be homeless.  But once I read this book, I was able to get a secondhand glimpse of what it is like to be homeless.  Their life is far from easy, and it’s good to know that there are ways we can help them out.

Under The Overpass is about two young men in the United States who decided to live as homeless people for 5 months in 6 different cities across the U.S.  They came from upper middle class families and decided to discover for themselves what it truly is like to be homeless.  As a result of their experience, they developed a new appreciation for the hardships these folks experience.  You will too, if you read this book.

If you are someone who wants to help these less fortunate folks, Brian Yankoski gives some good advice.  He says it is better to support mission organizations that provide food and shelter for homeless people, instead of giving cash directly to people on the street. Why? Because many homeless people will not buy food with the money they receive from you.  Instead, even though they may be very hungry, they will buy the substance that they are addicted to, whether it be alcohol or some other type of drug, or perhaps cigarettes.  Even though there are some who would indeed buy food, there is a good chance you will be funding someone’s addiction.

It’s important for us to give to those in need, and to help our communities in which every way we can. By providing support to those organizations that provide these life giving resources to the less fortunate, we can be assured that our money is going towards truly helping these people.

If you prefer to directly help out a homeless person who asks you for money, then first ask them what they want to use the money for.  If they say it is to be used to buy food because they are hungry, make it a habit to carry a few granola bars in your bag, and offer these to the person.  Or, if you don’t have any food with you, and you are really concerned for this person, offer to buy them lunch at a nearby café.  If they say they need a bus ticket, offer to buy them one, or give them one if you have one on you.

It’s so easy to just turn our eyes away when we see someone begging for money, and we can easily get hardened, but the next time you walk by someone on the street, look them in the eye.  Acknowledge their presence, show them respect, smile at them, and if you feel so compelled, offer to meet their needs.  But at the very least do not just flat out ignore them.  Who knows?  You might just make their day.

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