HOMELESSNESS AND HOW TO HELP THOSE AFFECTED BY IT
7 MINUTE READ
Wherever you go in the world you are likely to be confronted with the issue of homelessness. Unfortunately, homelessness is a global problem that affects millions of individuals in every corner of the world.
There are so many reasons why this is and every individual in a situation of homelessness will have a unique story about how they ended up there. Whether it is the rising costs of living, domestic abuse, substance abuse, mental health issues or devastating crises that force people into homelessness such as war, natural or unnatural disasters, political conflict and so much more, all of these causes are but a scratch on the surface behind why homelessness exists.
And, much like how the cause of an individual’s situation of homelessness is unique, so are the needs of those who are in these situations. There are many factors to consider when helping someone affected by homelessness and building an awareness and understanding of these factors can make the support we offer actually make a meaningful difference.
If you have a passion for social impact and you’re itching to help but aren’t quite sure where to start, then have a look at some tips from the OutsideIn Social Impact Team on how to best help those in need. And remember, no matter what shape it comes in, your help makes a difference.
1. What’s With the Weather?
Picture this: It’s -2 degrees outside, wet, windy and not an ounce of sunshine in sight. But the worst part about today is that you have to spend ALL of it outdoors. You haven’t had time to eat anything before you go and as you’re about to get dressed, you notice that the only thing you have is a T-Shirt, trousers, a couple of dirty and damp socks and a pair of old, worn-out and, quite frankly, very smelly shoes…
Not quite ideal, is it?
Very sadly, the reality for many people experiencing homelessness is that they are never properly equipped for the right weather. In the colder months they are often left inadequately dressed to shield themselves from the low temperatures and in the warmer months, they’re often left without the appropriate sun and heat protection - especially those who are in a situation of rough sleeping. When we help someone, it’s really important to ask ourselves the question: how is the current weather affecting our basic needs?
Once we’ve asked this question, we are able to better address the need at hand and provide support that actually helps those affected by homelessness and support that we would want for ourselves in the weather conditions at hand.
Here are some tips for how to help in the various seasons:
Fall and Winter:
- Donate warm outer clothing such as coats, jackets or fleeces.
- Donate thermal accessories such as gloves, thick socks, beanies, scarves or mittens.
- Donate thermal undergarments such as leggings or vests.
- In many regions, the colder months are accompanied by heavy rains so umbrellas are a very practical and helpful item to donate.
- Donate sleeping bags and blankets - these are especially helpful for rough sleepers
- If helping someone on the streets, offer to buy them a warm meal and a hot drink of their choice. These will help warm them from the inside out and help their immune systems which can be jeopardised by the cold.
- Donate or offer someone on the streets a hot water bottle. They can ask a coffee shop or a shelter to fill this up and in the warmer months, they can use it to keep cold water and to prevent dehydration.
- Offer to pay for a space in a shelter for a night or a few nights. It’s very difficult to get a good night’s rest when it’s freezing so, even if it’s temporary, a shelter would provide a much appreciated form of protection from the cold.
- Volunteer at local soup kitchens. They are often short of volunteers in the colder months due to colds, flu and decreased motivation to leave the house.
Spring and Summer:
- During the hotter months, sun exposure can be really dangerous (particularly for rough sleepers) and so, sun protection such as high SPF creams (50+) and umbrellas are extremely helpful.
- Caps and sun hats are another useful item that can help protect the face from sunburn and protect the eyes from added strain.
- WATER, WATER, WATER. This is perhaps one of the most important items to offer someone in the hotter months. Dehydration can lead to a number of health issues and in extreme weather conditions, it can be fatal. Buying rough sleepers, a few large water bottles, and perhaps even a reusable one they can fill up in the future, will make a huge and significant difference.
- Donate lighter clothing such as T-Shirts, vests, shorts, and any other clothing items that offer a lightweight and breathable material.
- Donate foods that will digest easily and give someone energy. When your body overheats simple functions like digestion can be affected so giving someone nourishing foods like a healthy sandwich, fresh fruit and natural smoothies can be a big help.
- Donate NEW socks and underwear to local charities. Firstly, it’s important that these items are new because no one wants to wear someone else’s underwear… Secondly, with the hot weather these items can become sweaty or dirty very quickly. This can then lead to health issues caused by poor hygiene. And lastly, having a clean pair of socks and new underwear provides someone with the dignity they deserve. Imagine having to wear the same pair of underwear every. single. day. It would be embarrassing and uncomfortable and no one, not even those experiencing homelessness, should ever have to feel that way about a basic need.
- Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or charity. Just like people disappear in the winter to hibernate, people disappear in the summer to go off on holiday. Soup kitchens are always in need of extra hands so find out where your local kitchen is and offer them a helping hand.
2. Remember That They Are Human Too.
As humans we all have certain things in common. Whether it’s tangible needs like food, water and clothing, or needs that can’t be seen or touched like connection, friendship and support, there are so many things that play a vital factor in keeping us going.
Next time you encounter someone experiencing homelessness, ask yourself: how would I feel in this situation?
It can be easy to judge someone but when we pause and take a moment to see life through the perspective of desperation, we might just understand where they’re coming from.
Next time you encounter someone experiencing homelessness, why not stop to greet them? A simple hello can communicate that you recognise them as a fellow human being and you see them as someone worthy of your attention.
3. Do Whatever You Can - No Matter How Big Or How Small It May Seem.
Often people will disqualify themselves from helping those in need because they believe that doing so requires a certain financial status, particular physical abilities, or even a certain personality type. However, because giving back can come in so many different forms, you are guaranteed to find one that works for you!
So, no matter where you are, who you are, how old you are, how rich you are, how extroverted you are or how available you are, you can play a significant part in helping those experiencing homelessness. If you want help finding out what you can do to help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with one of your local homeless charities to find out more about how you can make an impact in your community.
And don’t worry, you got this! Remember that at the end of the day all that really matters is that you did something. And when it comes to homelessness, every little bit of something counts.
So there you have it - three things to help you help others.
Together, we can rewrite homelessness.