People are always saying they wish they could help me. Many friends feel sad that they cannot do more to help solve my problems. I speak of both people in my real life and virtual life. I am grateful to have so many wonderful friends. Without their help, I could never make it through a month.
You might know someone priced out of housing and living in their vehicle or who is “couch surfing” between family and friends. There is a lot you can do to help that person. Even if you want to help in general but don’t know anyone personally, there are ways to help. In this column, I thought I would focus on ways you might help people.
On a less personal note, you can donate to organizations that help homeless people in your area. You can also help organizations like Invisible People that assist people in crisis. Our fearless leader, Mark Horvath, pounds the pavement in various cities giving socks and other things to homeless people, as well as videotaping their stories to help change the hearts and minds of people who do not see homeless people as human.
Before you give money to any organization, learn where the donations are distributed.
Invisible People has helped me numerous times when my 2009 van needed expensive repairs, which in my case is once or twice a year. They also helped retweet my GoFundMe campaign to help boost the signal. I am eternally grateful for their help and belief in me as a writer and representative of homeless people.
More accurately, I like to call myself “a disabled person with special needs who is priced out of housing.”
The word “homeless” turns off a lot of people. Invisible People strives to change the negative perceptions that the public has of all unhoused people, so it’s a good bet that your donation will go to a good place.
You can also volunteer at soup kitchens, food pantries, and other community outreach events. It costs only time and compassion – sometimes, that’s more valuable than anything.
You can make a difference in someone’s life by handing them a plate of delicious food and a warm smile. A simple thing, but so important. So many unhoused people are only treated with hate and disdain. They might only encounter other homeless people who are equally unhappy. Your compassion and warmth might be the only kindness they see on a given day.
Taking it to the next level, our friend Christy Killelea creates what she calls “Blessing Bags.”
She and her group, the Celebrate Recovery Life Group from Celebration Church in Metairie near New Orleans, distribute the Blessing Bags to homeless people during Christmas. The bags are filled with valuable items like soap, hand wipes, gloves, dental care items, and more. Each bag contains the message, “You Matter.”
I could see the amount of love and care put into these bags. Christy is a wonderful person, and you can contact her if you’d like to help her with her annual holiday project.
However, what if you do know someone experiencing homelessness?
Maybe you are not in a financial position to house them. Maybe you cannot even have them in your home because your landlord forbids it, or there are already too many people in the home. This doesn’t mean you cannot help in some way. There are still lots of things you can do. Let me give you some ideas.
For one thing, letting someone shower at your home is a big deal. It makes all the difference on earth to stay clean, even if you live in a vehicle or tent.
Allowing someone to wash their clothing at your home can significantly help.
Give someone a safe place to store valuables. Many homeless people are forced to keep whatever sentimental or valuable items they have left on their person where they can be lost or stolen. Free storage of a person’s valuables or important paperwork is a very great favor.
If your friend or family member is living in a vehicle, a shower, fresh clothes, and a meal are all enormously helpful and make the stay in the van easier.
Another helpful thing is allowing people experiencing mobile homelessness to park in your driveway occasionally and use an electric outlet to charge devices. Provide them boiling water in a hot water bottle for chilly nights and maybe a thermos of boiling water, too. Maybe you cannot house them, but on particularly beastly hot nights or bitter cold nights, offer to let them sleep on a sofa or mat on the floor of your living room.
If you want to go further, you might include them on a family phone plan to make sure they have access to a phone for appointment scheduling, job searching, getting medical help or social services, etc. You could also offer to get them essentials they need each month, like help with gas money if they’re in a vehicle or buy them supplements they need to try to stay healthy.
The list is endless. Even giving access to streaming services is a huge help. The only way I get to watch Star Trek shows is by the kindness of being allowed on a family plan. Same with Disney Plus.
And please! Don’t dismiss the gift of entertainment to a person whose life is in despair. For some of us, it’s all you have left. As Stan Lee once said:
“Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
As you see, there is much you can do to help people. Even sharing some of the stories and news on Invisible People to better inform your friends and family about the housing crisis and unhoused people is a huge help. Changing how people view people in my shoes can help motivate them to fix the problems causing this crisis.
The tiniest acts of activism and kindness are not tiny at all. It’s more appreciated than you know, and helping others feels good.