On any given day, between 600,000 and a million people in America spend the night homeless. Some people have been homeless for years, while others have recently found themselves homeless due to lost jobs, poor financial decisions, or other personal crises. Naturally, when a friend becomes homeless, we want to offer our assistance, but we also need to establish clear boundaries.
The way to help a homeless friend or who is about to become homeless is to help them arrange for an address, medicare, food stamps, and access to a shelter or some kind of temporary housing. Depending on the homeless person’s situation, you may be comfortable providing more support like temporary housing if you have the space, contributing assistance finding new work, and offering social and emotional support.
Read on for practical hands-on advice for helping a homeless friend meet their physical needs to survive. However, physical needs are not the main factors that facilitate a person’s successful escape from homelessness. To truly help another person out of homelessness, you must understand the importance of less obvious factors like employment, improved self-esteem, medical and mental health care, having a social network for support, and learning to manage responsibilities associated with past choices, including any substance abuse struggles.
- Practical Ways to Help a Homeless Friend
- Emotionally Supportive Ways to Help a Homeless Friend
- What Can I Give a Person Who is About to Be Homeless?
- Essential Factors in Returning to Self-Sufficiency
- How to Help the Homeless In Your Community?
- Related Questions:
Practical Ways to Help a Homeless Friend
1. Mailing Address
Make sure they have a mailing address. Homeless people must have an address to keep an official ID and apply for healthcare and food stamps. If this is a close friend, you might allow them to receive mail at your home. However, if you are not prepared for that, help them rent a Post Office Box.
2. ID Card
If they don’t already have one, help them gather the paperwork and get a state ID card.
Help them apply for Medicaid or other health services. Physical and mental health support are significant factors in overcoming homelessness. Those who are ill or cannot take medications for mental illness will not be able to improve on self-esteem and self-actualization factors needed to find consistent work and ultimately re-establish a household.
Help them apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). There are many misunderstood myths about the SNAP program, but it is not hard to apply for, and it is designed to help people in need. Even homeless people without kitchens or ID cards. Call 1-800-221-5689 or go online to www.fns.usda.gov/snap for more information on how to help people apply for SNAP.
Additionally, you can help homeless people by taking them to different food banks to apply for and receive assistance. Many charities, churches, and organizations open their doors once a week to provide food and other supplies to the homeless and others living in poverty.
Emotionally Supportive Ways to Help a Homeless Friend
6. Establish Boundaries
Knowing that a friend is already homeless or is about to be homeless can be an emotional roller-coaster. Although you may want to immediately offer all kinds of assistance, take time to consider what you can provide long-term — emotionally and financially. Talk openly about these limitations with your friend. Let them you what they can expect from you and how often they can expect it.
7. Take Time to Listen
Homeless people often feel cut-off from others. Be a friend and listen to them. Let them talk about their troubles, all the awful details. Talking is how we work through our thoughts and feelings.
8. Be Accepting
While you listen, try not to judge or accuse them of putting themselves into this situation. Regardless of the situation, they are in it now. Blaming will not improve the situation. Instead, focus on how to solve both the immediate problems of survival and the longer-term problems of overcoming and escaping homelessness.
9. Educate Yourself about Homelessness and Homeless Services
Homeless people need assistance and people to advocate for them. By educating yourself about the available services and applying for them, you will be able to provide for your friend and maintain the healthy boundaries you have already established. Start with the National Coalition for the Homeless website.
Next, use this link to find a US Department of Health Center in your area. For food resources, call the SNAP helpline at 1-800-221-5689. Finally, conduct a web search for homeless resources in your city.
Being homeless and feeling alone or cut off from the community will only exacerbate the difficulty in overcoming homelessness. Encourage your friends and family to be a part of supporting individuals in the homeless community.
What Can I Give a Person Who is About to Be Homeless?
A person who knows that they are about to be homeless can take some actions and gather some supplies. They should try to sell the things they can to build up some cash reserve and not be burdened with a household full of belongings.
If they are going to be living out, try to arrange a small tent or tarps. A bicycle with a trailer is also an excellent investment for a homeless person. It provides mobility, storage, and even shelter if it is a camping trailer.
Other camping supplies are helpful as well: a small stove, a water filter, and solar power lights. If at all possible, set them up with a cell phone plan so that you can stay in touch together.
What are the Best Things to Give a Homeless Person?
If you are trying to provide supplies for a person who has been homeless for a while, ask them what they need. If you choose to keep some items on hand to deliver as needed, consider shelf-stable foods that do not need to be cooked, water, socks, gift cards for restaurants or grocery stores, small toiletries like soaps, baby wipes, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.
Essential Factors in Returning to Self-Sufficiency
Many professionals believe that stable housing is a fundamental base on which a homeless person must build a path out of homelessness. And, of course, it is. However, having a place to live does not teach a person how to change their lifestyle or treat any underlying mental health conditions that may be present. Thus, while housing is unquestioningly essential, it is not the sole determining factor in escaping homelessness.
12. Controlling Substance Abuse
For some homeless individuals, learning to overcome current or past substance abuse problems becomes a barrier to self-sufficiency. Although some people have already stopped abusing substances, physical and mental health problems related to substance abuse can linger.
Guilt and regret from past behaviors can lead to lower self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Individuals who are still abusing alcohol and drugs are not in the proper frame of mind and body to plan and plan to escape homelessness.
13. Improve Self-Worth
In order for anyone to change their own situation, they need to value themselves. Unfortunately, people who are experiencing homelessness may also have feelings of low self-worth and inadequacy. In moments of deep depression, they may even feel that they deserve the situation they live in. To change their situation, they need improved self-worth, support to achieve their goals, assistance improving their abilities, and therapy to deal with trauma and grief.
14. Religion or Spirituality
Many religious groups provide food and shelter to the homeless, but perhaps a greater service is sharing a faith or spiritual belief. For example, a shared conviction that communicates the values of a loving God can improve feelings of self-worth.
Homelessness is not a DIY problem. Regardless of their circumstances, people need social support, which comes in the form of friends for company, family for love and guidance, and community support for re-entering society.
How to Help the Homeless In Your Community?
You can impact homeless people whether you are interacting with one particular friend who has become homeless, or you are trying to be more involved in your community.
First, acknowledge the homeless people around you. Greet them and say hello. Homeless individuals feel separate from society, and by acknowledging them, you can welcome them back into the community. Then, take the time to stop and visit with the people you meet. Talk to them about their life and experiences. Both of you may learn something interesting.
Next, donate if you are able. Find a charity or ministry that helps the underserved in your community. Many organizations take new and used clothing and items and deliver them to the homeless. If you can, donate financially to a charity or ministry.
Some of us want to help but don’t have the financial means. So instead, volunteer your time. Work at an outreach center, soup kitchen, or shelter. Serve at a food bank or work with a ministry to provide services for the homeless.
Finally, keep your promises. If you agree to provide a service or donate supplies, be sure that you do it. Don’t contribute to the feeling of isolation by breaking promises that you have made.
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My name is Keren Tayler. I am a work-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. I have been blogging for the last 5 years. I worked for other mom blogs, did hundreds of product reviews and buyers’ guides. Prior to that, I was a staff accountant at a big accounting firm. Needless to say, researching and numbers are my passion. My goal is to be an informative source for any topic that relates to mom’s life and homemaking.