As our country is firmly in the grasp of a polar vortex, our homeless citizens lie in an especially vulnerable position. With overcrowded shelters, epidemics, and a declining number of resources, many homeless people are literally left out in the cold. While this issue is most visible in large metropolitan areas, homelessness is a national issue and while many homeless people flock to cities, it is important to notice the signs in less urban settings. Homelessness can take many forms. While some may still have a car that they sleep in, others may be reliant on family members or only themselves, sleeping on a friend’s couch some nights and the streets the next. So, how can you step up? Here are a few ways you can help.
Photo: Adam Chang on Unsplash
Clean out your closet.
Do you have old sweaters or coats that maybe don’t fit anymore? Consider filling up a bag of old clothes, hats, scarves, and other cool weather clothes. Many states have drop off locations for local charities that you can use. If you live in an area with a high homeless population consider cutting out the middleman and delivering the clothes directly to the homeless either by leaving the bag with a note in a high traffic area or by handing out the items to each person.
Consider making blessing bags.
These bags are usually gallon sized and resealable, filled with non-perishable goods. These bags, containing a variety of products, have recently been shown on social media platforms. Some of the most commonly requested items in homeless shelters are socks, toiletries, wipes, and tampons. All of these items can be bought cheaply in pairs or packs that can be easily divided. So, next time you buy a pack of socks or a box of tampons, consider separating a couple pairs and putting them into these bags with a non-perishable food item and a printed list of shelter locations and available resources. Then, load these completed bags into your car or backpack; while you are out and about, hand them out to anyone who may need one.
Simply step up.
Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Check with your church or temple and see what programs they run. Donate to your town or city’s food pantry. You could even offer to sit down and buy a meal for someone in need. Many of these people are on the streets because they have nobody. They are people, so treat them like people. Sit and share a meal or a coffee, ask them how they are doing, and maybe tell them where they can find a shelter.
In the United States, many people are a paycheck or a medical bill away from homelessness. Our homeless population is full of men, women, and children that have fallen into the position for a variety of reasons. Some may be suffering from mental illness, others are out of work, and some may be fleeing violence that makes the streets safer than that person’s home. So, have compassion and respect for these people, for a simple change of circumstance could put you in their shoes.
I am Morgan Dunham. I am 21 years old and currently studying History at High Point University with a minor in Psychology. When I am not working you will usually find me drinking tea and binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the eighth time.