“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou
It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week and no better time to make someone’s day than today! Paying a little kindness forward can make us all feel better. Especially for people experiencing homelessness, a friendly gesture can brighten their day; contribute a sense of dignity; and help them fight the isolation, depression and embarrassment they face every day.
Need a little inspiration? Here are 10 ways you can practice a little kindness to people experiencing homelessness:
- Make eye contact, smile or say good morning
The homeless often feel invisible. One of the best ways to help someone experiencing homelessness is to show them respect. As you look into their eyes, talk to them with sincere interest and acknowledge their value as an individual, you reaffirm their humanity.
- Each time you buy a new piece of clothing, donate an old one
When you clean out your closet, give your clothes to people who need them most. Clothing of all types and sizes is always needed. In the cold winter months, sweaters and coats are particularly in demand. But shoes are the hardest to come by and the most overlooked commodity on the streets.
- Make two lunches and give one away
Putting together an extra sack lunch doesn’t take much effort, and the reward is well worth it. Non-perishable foods keep well. Something as simple as a package of peanut butter crackers, applesauce, a granola bar and a bottle of water can make a huge difference to a hungry soul.
- Give someone a job or assist in job training
Whether you can hire and train someone in a position, such as a security guard or a file clerk, or for handyman tasks or simply mowing the lawn, the opportunity means the world and can make a real difference in someone’s life.
- Buy someone new socks and underwear
New socks and underwear are among the most needed—but least donated—items at homeless shelters. Many homeless people wash their feet, but often need to put their dirty socks back on. New socks feel good and help defend against health problems.
- Offer a gift card for fast food or groceries or a bus pass
If you’re reluctant to give money, you can offer the gift of a hot meal. For someone in need, this also means a warm respite from the cold and access to a restroom with running water, soap and a toilet. A bus pass can come in handy for employment interviews or transportation to a doctor’s appointment.
- Don’t judge
Some people believe people experiencing homeless choose the streets or that they are homeless because of their own poor choices. But many paths can lead to homelessness. Many of the homeless are still working, but without a living wage, they can’t afford rent. Others are victims of domestic violence, addicted veterans or people who have gone bankrupt from a serious illness or injury.
- Volunteer at a shelter or with an organization serving the homeless
Sign up to serve food in a soup kitchen or to create care packages. You can also put your professional skills to good use. For instance, computer programmers can help update a website, marketers can help promote an organization and accountants can help keep the books.
- Champion local legislation that provides Housing First, not citations
In some cities, being homeless can get you arrested. When homeless people are arrested, it makes it even harder for them to get back on their feet. To help the homeless, vote against measures that criminalize homelessness and against politicians that support such measures.
- Adopt a homeless pet.
Homeless pets outnumber homeless people by a 5 to 1 ratio. Most homeless shelters don’t allow pets, leaving people to choose between shelter or giving up their best friend. One animal is put down by a shelter because of a lack of resources every 11 seconds.
National Health Foundation believes individuals experiencing homelessness can more effectively manage their health when they are housed. As a recuperative care provider, NHF offers hospitals a safe place to discharge homeless patients when they no longer require hospitalization but still need to heal from an illness or injury. While in our care, clients receive on-site medical supervision, case management and supportive social services with the goal of facilitating a healthy recovery and moving them forward on their path to housing.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can support our efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.