As grandpa used to say, “Got eyes in your head?” Yes. When we see homeless people, what do we really see or think?
They must have made some bad choices. Probably on drugs. Probably wants to be homeless and doesn’t want to be bothered. Those situations are not the case for the majority of our neighbors experiencing homelessness—not even close. So let’s change our thinking. And let’s start 2019 with some new habits and new goals that will make a difference in this homelessness crisis.
- Show some respect, will ya? Homelessness sucks. It is dangerous, scary, and, perhaps above all, extremely isolating.One of the most common things we hear from people struggling with homelessness is that they feel invisible. A simple smile or “good morning” as you pass by someone living outside can mean a lot. It may be the most positive interaction that person has all day. Be that person.
- Donate. Maybe there’s a shelter on your commute route. Maybe a tent city just moved near your town or a winter shelter is opening in the church a few short miles away. Hello, Google! You can find them online and email them and everything. Blankets, shoes, toiletries and clothes are almost always needed at shelters and other agencies providing services to people living outside, especially in the cold and dripping Seattle winters.And the obvious other “donate” call is to donate money. Money allows nonprofits to use it for the most urgent needs. Check out United Way’s gift catalog and choose the needed item with which you want to make an impact.
- Hire someone. Does your workplace, church or community center have work that needs to be done? Consider hiring a person struggling with homelessness to paint, clean or any other job that might fit.Many people living outside or in shelters want to work but can’t find regular employment. Check out how United Way is doing that with our Jobs Connect program.
- Volunteer. Easy. These volunteer spots are waiting for you. Homeless shelters and other local nonprofits help provide the basic needs for those who are homeless. Volunteers generally do much of the work, from picking up donations, preparing meals, serving it and cleaning up the facilities. Get off your holiday ham, peeps.
- Educate yo’self. People become homeless for a lot of reasons. Each and every person has a unique story just like any of us. One of the first things you can do to help our community fight homelessness is understanding how people got there in the first place. Read Aeshia’s story to help you get started.
- Advocate and educate others. When you do volunteer, you’re going to get hooked on that feeling of making a difference and can motivate others with your enthusiasm. You can write letters to the editors of your neighborhood paper. Advocate for housing issues at election time with your friends and legislators. Don’t know who your legislators are? We gotcha covered.
- Share your hobbies. Whatever your hobbies may be—building, gardening, coding, cooking or photography there’s a way they can help people in need. So stop keeping them to yourself and find a way to put them to good use already! See where your talents can make a difference.
- Talk to your kids about homelessness: While maybe not the most difficult issue to talk to your kids about, it’s right up there and it’s important to do. The homelessness crisis in Seattle has made the issue painfully visible. Here are some tips to make it easier and more productive.
The moral of the story: You have the power to change this for homeless people. For our community. Let’s go do it.