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Tips for Helping Homeless New Yorkers

Helping homeless New Yorkers

 

Through small but impactful ways, you can care for people experiencing homelessness, hunger and other crises. Here are five tips that can make a difference for a neighbor in need.

 

Tip #1 - Acknowledge & Engage

Homelessness brings a sense of loneliness that erodes the core of a person’s self-worth. 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 people 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 neighbor, his or her story and family, you show them that you care!

Above all, avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing anyone who is homeless. There are many paths that lead to homelessness, and each person has a different story.

Tip #2 - Be Ready to Help Today

Sometimes, people in crisis 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 gift cards from fast food or grocery store chains in your wallet. This way, you will be helping your 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 among those living unsheltered.

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, donate them to The Bowery Mission to redistribute to someone in need.
  • And how about those winter boots you haven’t worn in the past two years? Keep someone else warm and dry this season by donating them to The Bowery Mission’s clothing program.

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.

Learn about donating goods to The Bowery Mission to help neighbors in need.

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

When it comes to how people living unsheltered are viewed and treated, misconceptions and stereotypes abound. Educate yourself on the issues and how to become part of the solution.

  • Learn about the different paths that lead to homelessness. Every person living on the streets has his or her own story. Some people are escaping a traumatic or abusive environment. Other people are dealing with the grasp of addiction. Still others have struggled to find affordable housing in one of the most expensive cities in the world. No matter what factors lead a person to become homeless, every person we meet has value and deserves 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 served New Yorkers experiencing hunger and homelessness since 1879.

  • If you want to help someone experiencing homelessness 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 neighbors who are living unsheltered. You can pray by yourself, or with friends and family. Pray for their physical needs to be met, as well as their mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Pray that they find the motivation and support they need to receive care and begin a path toward recovery.

 


Other Ways to Help

 

Donate today

You can give meals, safe shelter, radical hospitality and other critical care for neighbors experiencing homelessness, hunger and other crises.

Volunteer

Join us in our work to empower others! Prepare or serve meals, tutor and mentor clients or participate in skill-based opportunities.