When seeing a homeless person, whether in the metro, on the street or in a park, we do not know what to do, and more often than not, we ignore them. It is very common to act this way, and it's not bad, much of the time we are occupied or on our way somewhere. In this post, I will be discussing ways in which you can help the homeless.
When people think of essential items, many think of food, clothes and water as essentials, and although these are essentials, there is much more. An often overlooked aspect when trying to help the homeless are hygienic products and some pieces of clothes.
The most requested hygienic products are toothbrushes, toothpaste, bandages, deodorant, razors & shaving cream, nail clippers and pads/tampons. Other hygienic products that the homeless might request are Qtips, lip balm, combs, tissues and hair ties. However, because of the pandemic adding masks and hand sanitizer to that list is common sense.
Clothes are probably the most complicated essential items for the homeless because they don't have access to laundry services and have limited storage. Because of that, the homeless are often walking in filthy clothes, especially socks and underwear. They must also often throw out clothes once they receive clean replacements and must throw out boots & coats when winter ends because of limited storage capacity. So how can you help? There are essentially two ways you can help. Firstly, you can offer to pay for cleaning their clothes at a local laundromat. Secondly, you can give them clothes such as socks, underwear, and shoes that fit them. Giving socks & underwear in paks of 4-6 is preferred, as these will last them much longer and is probably cheaper in the long run.
In addition to clothes, many homeless suffer because of the winter's cold temperatures, so other much-requested items are blankets and gloves.
Food & Money:
Probably the easiest and most efficient way to help a homeless person is by giving them money. But this is not always the best idea. Many think it's rude to say that the homeless will spend their money on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; sadly, there is some truth to this claim, and it's best to avoid giving the homeless cash.
So what do you do? Instead, you can offer to buy food at a grocery store or the nearest restaurant/coffee shop. Many homeless people also complain that they often eat the same food (such as rice, water, apples and granola bars). Although these might seem like nutritious items, much of the food the homeless eat comes from food banks, shelters and organizations, and these places all have limited budgets and often offer the same kinds of foods to keep costs low. Many homeless would enjoy a greater variety of fruits (preferably soft fruits) other than apples and bananas. While they enjoy water bottles, they would greatly appreciate juice and energy drinks (especially during the winter). Many homeless are vegetarian, but many request meals with meat (chicken and beef are the most commonly asked for).
If you do not have time to go to a grocery store or a restaurant to buy food, a quick and often more efficient way to help the homeless is to buy gift cards. Not only does buying gift cards give more flexibility to a homeless person as they can choose exactly what they want, but it also limits waste because they will only spend the money when they are hungry. Gift cards between 10-25$ are sufficient, but any amount helps.
If you do not have time to do this and want to give your money knowing it will help the homeless, you can donate here; all the money donated goes directly to helping the homeless.
When requesting money, the homeless usually ask it for two main reasons: food or transportation. Instead of giving coins for transportation, an interesting alternative is buying multiple bus tickets at metro stations; the homeless usually need to travel every day but avoid public transportation as it's sometimes too expensive.
Volunteer & Time:
If you are tight on money and cannot afford to give your money, there are numerous ways to help the homeless for free; one way is to offer your time.
Maybe the easiest way to help the homeless is by spending your time talking to them; many homeless are very lonely and barely have any human communication during the day, and talking to them for a few minutes a day or simply saying hello and acknowledging their existence is sufficient to put a smile on their face.
Not only are there many ways to volunteer these days, but volunteering is free. Here at Welfare Avenue, we need volunteers to help distribute food, clothes, and hygienic products every weekend. If you are interested, you can apply to be a weekend volunteer here. Because of our various ways of volunteering, you can even volunteer from home by cooking meals or even by donating food/clothes.