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Practical Efforts

How You Can Help

Throughout my homelessness, practical help has been surprisingly hard to come by. What does that mean? It means well-intentioned people often don’t know quite how to make a positive difference for a homeless person.

There are some very simple ways you can help. Here’s a list. It’s by no means comprehensive. Below I’ll add a little detail and context.

Practical ways to help the homeless:

  • Cash, of course. (In fact, any time you give anything to a homeless person, also give cash if possible. It makes an enormous difference.)
  • Donate used tech, such as an iPhone or laptop. Access to the internet is important, even for the homeless.
  • Purchase phone time. Why not pay the next 6 months of a persons phone for them? For most, that amounts to less than $100. You can do this safely and securely.
  • Gift Cards. Clothing, grocery, liquor store, cinema, etc. Many essential items can be difficult to attain on the budget a homeless person is working with.
  • Lottery tickets. Why not buy a duplicate lotto ticket and give it to a homeless person? Imagine that win!
  • Speaking for myself, I don’t want a bottle of water from you. Water is free. Who’re you kidding?

It’s important to keep a few things in mind if you’re going to approach a homeless person.

  • Being present is not the same as being available. Be sure to respect our time.
  • Take a minute to get to know the person you’re talking to, without pity, condescension, or judgement.
  • Reach out to your network of real-life contacts and find out if anyone has an opportunity a homeless person can make use of. Trust is an important part of human relationships.
  • No photos. Seriously. We’re not animals in a zoo.

There are many small ways you can help the homeless. These are simply the easiest, most obvious examples.

Now, some context.

Many things might have happened these past 15 years, things that could have resulted in my becoming housed, returning to life. Without housing, building a life is not possible.

Looking to the past for might-have-beens is not much use. I do, though, cast my mind back over the way my requests for help were received, handled, and rejected. This is especially true of my immediate family.

Remember, the life you live is made up of many small certainties. They’re a kind of insurance, really. Your certainties provide security. Security offers hope and faith. Hope and faith are the framework from which anyone sets goals for themselves. Without faith that you have control in your life there can be no hope your goals will amount to anything.

Early on, we homeless are robbed of the power to set meaningful goals. Speaking for myself, it is a mammoth task fighting that hopelessness. I don’t often succeed.

Make the time to adopt and enact the efforts I’ve listed. People like me need your help. Homelessness really is a state of permanent deprivation — unless you decide to help.

— Chris

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