In the comments of my post “Addy’s (Slightly Tongue In Cheek) Guide to Dealing With Having A Home After Being Homeless” someone suggested I write a post detailing practical ways a non-homeless person (NHP) can help a homeless person.
A brilliant (in terms of necessity) and frightening (in terms of my questionable style) idea!
I’m not exactly known for my sound advice, especially when you take into account that I once wrote (in a post about getting through a day suffering from depression):
ThosePJs may very well be back in fashion (especially if they’ve got cute little ducks on them) but the first step to helping you get through the day is to get those PJs off! Yep, you heard me. Strip! Believe me, I know how hard that sounds – so have fun with it; do a little striptease and dance nekkid to get those giggles going for the rest of the day.
and (in a post about how you can help a friend/partner with depression):
Three words: naked…food…fight!
Both of which point very clearly to my apparant obsession with nudity – but I guess there are worse things to be obsessed!)
However, for the sake of everyone like me who needs help from time to time I decided to give a serious dose of advice my best insomniac-riddled shot.
Five Ways You Could Help The Homeless
#1: Talk to them
We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. Dozens of social networks connect us twenty-four hours a day, mobile phones are perpetually ready to take a call at all hours of the day or night and most of us take the people in our lives for granted. Few think what it would be like to have no-one, ever, to talk to.
The last time I had a face-to-face conversation with a human being on a social level was June 6 2009 (that was over sixteen months ago!)
The last time I had a phone-to-phone conversation with a human being on a social level was June 16 2009 (nearly sixteen months ago!)
Sure, in that time I’ve spoken to NGOs, Doctors and service providers but there is a stark difference between talking about mental health/homeless issues and having a laughter filled natter over a hot chocolate laced with pseudo-narcotic marshmallows.
Whilst it’s true that some homeless people have others in their life (husbands, wives, friends, family etc) it should be remembered that others don’t. It’s important NHPs remember that being homeless does not make the quintessential human need for social contact evaporate.
One of the most important things you can do to help a homeless person is talk to them. Instead of just tossing them a few coins or breezing past acting as if they’re not there, take a few minutes out of your day to talk to them. You don’t have to ask their life story nor delve into their reasons for being homeless, just talk to them.
Instead of treating them like an animal, you are treating them for the human being they are – and who among us doesn’t want that?
Yet in spite of all this great work we never fully appreciate how wonderful they are. We just pull them out the draw at the start of the day, inflict pain on them for twelve hours and then discard them into a basket at the end of the night. We even deny them vicarious sexual shenanigans as it seems no-one wants to include socks in their love making repertoire.
Homeless people, do not take socks for granted. I don’t mean we worship them for their religious dedication or include them in our love-making sessions, but we appreciate how wonderful a clean, soft pair of socks can be.
Anyone would when you’ve been wearing the same pair for two weeks.
Unlike NHPs, we homeless understand just how difficult it is to come across a new pair of socks, so if you want to help a homeless person in a practical way think no further than what keeps their toes warm and cushioned as they wander the streets day in/day out.
#3: Understand that Homeless is not a species
Society has a tendency to apply labels to everything it doesn’t understand. Constantly shunting everything under the same heading and to hell with a little something called individuality.
Every single homeless person on this planet is unique. Some spend their days sleeping, others sit in libraries. Some fill their time panhandling with witty signs, others refuse to beg even when their life depends on it.
Not every homeless person is an addict, not all homeless persons have a mental illness, few homeless will beat you up and steal your stilettos and even fewer will expose themselves to you before beating a hasty retreat on their conveniently located unicorn.
A practical way to help the homeless is to work to dispel the stereotypes that abound in society. When your friends begin making fun of the homeless, say something. If a twitter topic begins trending which is clearly and obviously discriminating against the homeless, refuse to participate.
Discrimination exists not only because of lack of education but because of lack of passion. If more people had the courage to speak out then stigma would become as mythical as the aforementioned unicorn.
When was the last time Homelessness was a major political issue during an election campaign? During the recent Australian Federal Election I do not recall homelessness being raised once, this is in spite of the previous Prime Minister declaring homelessness in Australia would be halved by 2020.
The reason it’s never an issue is because it is never important to the general public. Nothing will ever be accomplished in politics without noise. So if you want to practically help the homeless in a wider sense, make some noise!
And I don’t mean purchase a kazoo.
Instead of organising a protest march for Same Sex Marriage rights (a worthy cause) organise one to protest against the appalling treatment the homeless receive. Write to your local MP, your Prime Minister or President. Kick up a fuss, for few remember we employ the politicians.
Tweet, Facebook, share, educate and don’t stop until something happens.
#5: Care Packages
An NHPs day-to-day activity generally follows: waking up, breakfast, work, lunch, skive off, home, argument, dinner, make up sex, sleep.
A homeless person’s day-to-day activity generally follows: not-waking-up from any sleep, roaming around all day doing whatever there is to do and then popping to the soup van on the way back to a bench for another night of no sleep.
They’re thinking survival, because this is what being homeless is all about. They’re thinking about where their next meal is coming from, whether they have enough clothes, where they can have a shower, who’s going to feed the unicorn?
What can help a homeless person survive is something as simple as a care package containing bare essentials. You’ve no idea how basic items such as deodorant, toothpaste, soap, socks, tampons, hairbrush become highly sought after luxury items when on the street.
Make a homeless person’s day by helping them get these items so they can take better care of themself in order to feel better about themselves.
So your homework this weekend is to toddle off and do one of these suggestions (or something else entirely) to make a homeless person in your community feel better this weekend. There’s a comments field below so you can report back…and be forewarned I come armed with a vicious looking ruler and a naughty corner for those who think helping is for other people ;)
- How Did You Observe World Homeless Day? (homelessness.change.org)
- Clean Socks, For the First Time in Two Weeks (homelessness.change.org)
- Homelessness hits record-high in NYC (rt.com)
- The administration doesn’t give a flying Frisbee about the homeless (barbaradiamond.blogspot.com)