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Experiencing homelessness can be incredibly challenging, and one of the most difficult aspects is often how others treat you. Homelessness doesn’t diminish a person’s humanity; those without homes also deserve to be treated with dignity, especially as they receive support from others.
Here’s a guide on almsgiving with kindness and respect based on insights from individuals who have experienced homelessness.
1. Give Them Some Normalcy
A few dollars may seem OK and even necessary, but giving them a taste of what “normal” feels like will be most appreciated.
An online user whose boyfriend was homeless once says, “He always tells me that it’s not the money people need, it’s normalcy. A daily routine and normal social interaction. Brushing your teeth, combing your hair, saying hello to your neighbor, and spending your day doing normal things and feeling normal. Too many cannot find this normalcy, and so they turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their reality. Because they think they’ll never feel normal again.”
2. Talk With Them
Homelessness doesn’t make people dumb, talking to a homeless man like you don’t think he’s stupid is the height of respect. Talk with them about their lives, aspirations, and real life.
One user who was once homeless says when he meets homeless people, he “listens and shares stories and treats them with respect and dignity. He’s even spent a few of his nights out at a bar speaking with the people busking outside and then spent the rest of the night partying with them.”
3. Give Them A Basic Grooming Kit
Being homeless means you can’t enjoy the things the rest of humanity takes for granted, like a grooming kit. One user says her boyfriend has pre-made packs with toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant, disposable razors and shaving cream, socks, and hand/feet warmers. It would be nice to make something like that for the homeless.
4. Encourage Them
Hitting a rough patch in life is normal, and it happens even to the best of us. Sometimes, this rough patch leads to living in your car or on the streets, and it’s definitely not the greatest moment. One online user says encouragement was one of the best things he got from a friend when this happened to him.
It’s just a temporary phase of life, give a homeless person some hope.
5. Some Warmth
It gets pretty cold outdoors, and when that is where you stay all day and night, the cold can be punishing. One of the best gifts you can give a homeless person is something to keep them warm.
6. Don’t Look Down On Them
Most people who have been homeless confess that meeting physical needs is not the most challenging part about being homeless: being looked at like they are less than human is.
One online contributor says, “I lived in my car for 3 months, and the only part that wore on my sanity was feeling different and looked down on by everyone that could see my situation. Physical needs weren’t that hard to meet.”
7. Help With No Strings Attached
For some homeless people, generosity from others comes with a price tag: Some people expect s**ual favors from them, while others want to help them so that they can go away.
If you help a homeless person in any way, please don’t put an expectation on them due to your generosity. Do good and walk away.
8. Don’t Criminalize Homelessness
It’s appalling that being homeless is criminal in some states, and people with nowhere to go are prohibited from sleeping in some places. While restoring order in a city is good, we should ensure that the laws protect everyone, including the homeless.
One user says, “I almost always sleep in the subway during the winter, and now the NYPD is threatening to crack down on that; it boggles the mind. Where do they expect us to go?”
9. Make Mental Illness Easy and Cheap To Treat
Some very intelligent people cannot hold jobs because they struggle with mental illness and end up homeless. Some of these illnesses are easily treatable, but there isn’t legislation that aids mental illness treatment.
A conversation contributor says, “Unless we decide as a society to stop punishing the homeless for being mentally ill and pass legislation that would provide them the necessary healthcare it will take for them to get off the streets, we will always have this problem.”
10. Don’t Call the Police On Them
Sadly, some people have called the cops on homeless people who are just taking a nap in the car after a long day. Homeless people need a minute to rest; they are not idling in their cars waiting to do something illegal.
One says, “Currently homeless in my car, please don’t call the police on me even just to check if I am OK, I’m being quiet and not leaving a mess at all; police harassment is the number 1 problem… I work full-time, and it sucks when I can’t sleep for a few days because police keep coming to see me despite not doing anything illegal.”
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