Reaching out and helping the homeless

Helping the homelessMany men and women have entered our residential recovery programs and graduated to a new life because someone cared enough to reach out and let them know there was a place where they could get help.  If you or someone you know could benefit from one of these programs, learn how you can get help here.

Others learn about our residential recovery programs through volunteers who serve meals or help with our outreach program.  Volunteers help our residents along their journey of recovery by tutoring them as they work toward educational or vocational goals, or by teaching a special skill.  Learn more about volunteering.

Finally, it is through the generous gifts of faithful, caring donors that make the life transformation achieved through these recovery programs possible.  Your online gift today, or donation by phone or mail, whether large or small, can help bring about lifelong change in the life of a man or woman.

 

Tips on Helping the Homeless

Helping the homeless

Tip #1 - Acknowledge & Engage

Homelessness brings a sense of loneliness that erodes the core of a person’s self-value. When you are homeless, a simple smile and a word of kindness can make a big difference in a day full of hardship.
Be sure to acknowledge the homeless you encounter in the street or subway. Say a simple hello. Talk to them and engage in a simple conversation. When you take your time to learn about your homeless neighbor, his or her story and family, you show them that you care!
Above all, avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing the homeless. There are many paths that lead to homelessness, and each person has a different story.

 

Tip #2 - Be Ready to Help Today

Sometimes, the homeless just need help to get through the day. In general, it is better not to give cash away. So what if you want to help today? You can provide practical and immediate help:
Carry with you gift cards from fast food or grocery store chains in your wallet. This way you will be helping your homeless neighbor get something to eat, as well as the opportunity to get out of the street and rest inside a store or restaurant.
Also, granola bars are easy to keep in your pockets or bag, and provide energy and nutrition.
Besides food, a small bottle of water helps prevent dehydration, a common health concern for the homeless community.
TO KEEP IN MIND
Always offer help first, rather than giving someone something they may not actually want or need. Many of your neighbors in need will be grateful for your offer of food or water. But you may also encounter someone who is having a really rough time and may be unable to appreciate your help. Please, don’t be discouraged. Just smile and keep on your way. You may find someone else to help.

 

Tip #3 - Help During Any Season

Winter season feels extra-long when you are living on the streets or sleeping in a subway car. There is a big risk of hypothermia just from staying outside for such long periods of time. You can provide protection from the cold weather without having to spend any additional money! Here is how:

  • Check in your closet for simple winter gear that you are not using anymore (or that you don’t use that often): a pair of winter gloves, a scarf in a color you don’t like anymore, a knit hat that you got for free at a game or event. Instead of keeping these in your closet, carry one at a time and give it away to someone you see living on the streets.
  • And how about those winter boots you haven’t worn in the past 2 years? Dust them off and give them to the homeless person you pass on your commute every morning.

Summer time is no different. A clean t-shirt does a lot for someone's spirits when you are outside in the sweltering heat. Being able to change to clean, fresh clothes helps lighten your day.
If you travel often, next time you stay in a hotel remember to grab the complimentary hand lotion (that small bottle in the bathroom) and keep it in your pocket or bag. This lotion can help more than you think! Spending all day in the harsh winter cold can severely damage and dry out your skin.
TO KEEP IN MIND
Always offer help first, rather than giving someone something they may not actually want or need. Many of your neighbors in need will be grateful for your offer of food or water. But you may also encounter someone who is having a really rough time and may be unable to appreciate your help. Please, don’t be discouraged. Just smile and keep on your way. You may find someone else to help.

 

Tip #4 - Understand & Tell

One of the biggest problems with homelessness is misunderstanding who are the homeless. Stereotypes and stigmatization make it hard for us to help others.
Learn about the different paths that lead to homelessness. Every person living on the streets has his or her own story. Some are very educated and just down on their luck. Some are struggling with addiction. Others lost everything to medical bills, and some suffer mental illness. No matter what brought them to homelessness, they all have value and deserve help.
If you are able, share what you learn with your friends, family and colleagues. Have a blog? How about writing about what you learned about homelessness this month? If you volunteer and tell others about your experience with enthusiasm, you can help eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes!
The power of one is great. More so the power of three, or ten! Gather a group of friends and volunteer together, collect food or clothing in your community and donate it.
Ready to learn more? Start here.

 

Tip #5 - Invite & Pray

Homelessness is very complex and, many times, generates vicious circles that are hard to break. However, there is hope! The Bowery Mission has been providing immediate help as well as long-lasting recovery programs since 1879.
If you want to help a homeless person get back on their feet, you can point them to The Bowery Mission and invite them to get help there. The easiest way is to carry with you at all times a resource card with information on how to get to the Mission and what type of help they can find there.
You can also hand them a MetroCard with a ride-worth so that they can get on their way that very same day! Remember, they may not take on your invitation right away, but it is good for them to know they have it available for when they are ready.
Finally, pray for your homeless neighbors. You can pray by yourself, or with friends and family. Pray that their physical needs are met. But also pray for their emotional and spiritual needs. Pray that they find the motivation to join a recovery program and seek for the help they need.