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wikiHow to Help the Homeless

Six Parts:Things You Can DoVolunteering OptionsUsing Political ActivismFor ProfessionalsHelping Do'sHelping Don'ts

It's hard to see homeless people on the street. Whether you want to help for religious or moral reasons it can be very hard to know where to begin. This article will help you get on your way to having an immensely positive impact on the life of a homeless person and change the fate of your entire community.

Part 1
Things You Can Do

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    Donate money. The easiest way to help the homeless is to donate your money. This makes sure that professionals who understand where the most help is needed will have the resources necessary to help people.
    • When you donate money, focus on local organizations. Large, national organizations (like the Salvation Army) spend a lot of their money on advocacy (which is good) but relatively little on actually helping people, especially in your area.
    • You can also donate to local churches, temples, mosques, and other religious organizations, even if you aren't religious. These organizations have other sources of income to deal with the operating costs, so your money should go directly to helping people.
    • If you want to check on a local organization and make sure that it is legit and uses its funds responsibly, then go to the GuideStar website. This is a sort of BBB of non-profit organizations.
    • You can, if you want to, specify how you want your money to be used. Most charitable organizations allow this. Keep in mind, however, that they know where the most help is needed.
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    Donate items. Donating your used or new items is another easy way to help. Donate these items to local organizations which help the homeless or give them to homeless people you see frequently. The best items to donate include things like:
    • Winter and weather gear (such as hats, mittens, coats, and boots)
    • New underwear and socks
    • Small hygiene items (like the type of items you get at hotels, small containers of toothpaste, etc.)
    • Professional clothing (a hurdle to overcoming homelessness is looking presentable at job interviews)
    • First aid items (such as Neosporin, Band-Aids, antibacterial and hand sanitizers)
    • Secondary medical items (such as sunscreen, heavy duty lotions like Bag Balm, allergy medication and tissues)
    • Bus passes (great for helping them get to job interviews)
    • Linens (i.e. twin sheets, towels, pillows and pillow cases)
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    Provide food. Everyone needs to eat and they need to eat every single day. If you're hungry, your ability to make good decisions for yourself isn't very good, right? There are lots of ways that you can help homeless people get food.
    • You can donate canned items and fresh fruits and vegetables to local soup kitchens.
    • You can also drop off bananas, apples, or sandwiches, all of which you can get for cheap and in mass quantities from stores like Costco, with people you see on the street. Try to favor softer foods, such as bananas, because many individuals have dental problems that make eating apples or carrots difficult.
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    Create jobs. If you're in a position where you can give someone a job, do that. Whether it's offering to hire and train someone in a position like a secretary or file clerk, or just letting them do odd jobs like mowing your lawn, this can really make a huge difference for someone.
    • Be sure, however, that you don't take advantage of them. Pay them a reasonable, fair amount of money.
    • Collect your recyclables. If you live in an area which pays money for the collection of recyclables (like soda cans), collect all of yours and regularly give them to a homeless person. This person can then get the money for the recyclables. This can be an important source of income for many homeless people.
    • Buy Street Sheet and similar papers. This is a newspaper sold by homeless people which is intended to help make them more financially independent. This is available in most major cities and many smaller cities as well.
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    Contact local help. If you see people on the streets, one of the best things you can do for them is to call the local homeless services. Some people may not know how to locate help and so they never get it. Call for them and get them on the path to recovery.
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    Call emergency services. If someone is clearly having a serious problem, call emergency services. If you see someone who is clearly having a psychotic episode, call the Emergency Services. If you see someone who may be a danger to themselves or others, call for help also. If someone is in danger because of weather conditions or seems likely to commit suicide, call Emergency Services also.

Part 2
Volunteering Options

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    Volunteer at an organization. Find organizations in your area that help the homeless. These are usually advocacy groups or organizations which focus in finding homeless people homes, jobs, and education. See what's available in your area and help out.
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    Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Soup kitchens focus on solving one of the biggest short term problems that homeless people face: getting enough food to survive. Soup kitchens can almost always use an extra hand serving or preparing food, as well as picking up donations from local churches and businesses.
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    Volunteer at a shelter. Shelters provide a safe place for homeless people to sleep. They usually need volunteers to help clean and monitor the facility, as well as help homeless people find more permanent solutions.
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    Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that build homes for homeless and displaced families You can learn important skills and help people by helping to build these homes in your area
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    Volunteer your property. Landlords are especially helpful. Oftentimes, homeless people may get a job but they'll have a period of a week, 2 weeks, or a month before they get their first paycheck. In that time, they need a place to stay so that they can sleep and get ready. Keeping an apartment open for people in this situation can be a huge service to your community and a local shelter can probably help.

Part 3
Using Political Activism

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    Support mental health services. One of the best ways to make a difference for homeless people is to change how our society views homelessness issues and what it does about them. The biggest problem in the US for homeless individuals is lack of mental health services. Support such local services and write to your local politicians about your cause.
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    Support affordable housing initiatives. Another problem in many cities is the lack of affordable housing. This is a really big issue. Support ballot initiatives for affordable housing and write to local housing groups to help them understand the need. Speak out against new developments which are not affordable.
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    Support free and low cost medical care. Basic medical care is also a huge problem for homeless people. They are more prone to health problems but obviously are stuck in a position where they cannot afford help. Support local free clinics and work on getting more free clinics in your city.
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    Support day shelters. Day shelters are another service which can help homeless people get back on their feet. These shelters give homeless people a safe place to go to work on finding a job, or even just store their things while they go out to try to find work. Day shelters are uncommon, so if your city doesn't have one, work on trying to get one together.
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    Support libraries. Local libraries are a huge resource for homeless people. They make job searching tools, such as the internet, free and available for homeless people. They are also a source of information, so that homeless people can learn skills that help them get jobs in the future.

Part 4
For Professionals

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    Assess their immediate needs. Stop focusing on long-term goals, like getting them back in school or getting them off alcohol. You have to solve their immediate problems first, by getting them a place to sleep as well as some food.
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    Find out how they became homeless. This can often lead to an understanding of what you need to do to stop the problem. It will also help them bond to you and they will be more willing to allow you to help.
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    Find out their support system. Find out if they have family or friends who can help. Often they do but are uncomfortable asking for help or do not know how to find their family.
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    Find them resources. Find them things like shelters, food program, education programs, and government resources. They will likely be unable to find these things on their own.
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    Make them a list. Have a list of the basic resources available to them once you've located them things like shelters and food. List addresses, phone numbers, and opening schedules. Make it as easy to read as possible. You can even include emotional reminders, to help keep them inspired and motivated.
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    Find them WET housing. If they are alcoholics, they may have trouble in the system because many or most homeless shelters require people to go cold turkey. WET housing, available in some cities, is specially designed to help homeless people with addiction problems and their success rates tend to be phenomenal.

Part 5
Helping Do's

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    Respect them. Always respect homeless people. Some made poor choices but others didn't. Even if they did make poor choices, no one deserves homelessness. Homeless people are not worth less than you. They are still someone's child. Talk to them and treat them the way you would want to be treated.
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    Be friendly. Smile at them. Talk to them. Don't stare. Don't ignore them. Homeless people can feel very self conscious and just treating them well can make their day much better.
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    Offer help. Offer to help them. They may not know who to talk to or how to get help with what they need. Offer to help them, maybe not through giving them money directly but by buying them lunch or contacting a shelter for them.
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    Use simple language. When you talk to them, talk simply and get to the point. This is not because they're stupid but because being hungry or cold can impair a person's judgement. They may have trouble understanding you and they may need help reasoning through problems.

Part 6
Helping Don'ts

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    Don't offer transportation. You generally should not offer them a ride somewhere unless you have assurances from their caseworker that it's safe. Allowing a stranger (whether they are homeless or not) into your vehicle can potentially be dangerous. Although that's unlikely, many homeless people suffer from significant mental health problems and/or addiction, and often do not have access to the treatment they need, so they may behave erratically or have impaired judgement.
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    Don't offer them a place to stay in your own home, for the same reasons as above. Find other ways to help them.
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    Never confront someone who appears to be having an episode. If someone is ranting, shouting, or appears to be having another mental health problem, do not confront them. Just call the police if you feel someone could be in danger.
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    Never treat them as less or stupid. They usually aren't. Sometimes bad things just happen to us in our lives and many countries are not well equipped to help people get back on their feet.


  • Be compassionate, this is the most important emotion to have when helping the homeless
  • Homeless people want you to help them, but they dont want to feel like they can't do anything themselves. Remember that they are not a charity case.
  • Be respectful and understanding.
  • The most important thing is to be respectful. Treat them like people. They might just be down on their luck. Maybe get to know them more, or just be a friend to them. Don't be overly obvious that you feel bad for them, because that can be condescending. Help them keep their humanity.


  • Don't put yourself in danger. When in doubt, let professionals help.
  • Don't give money to homeless people directly. Give them food, drink etc. and donate money to charity. You don't want the money to be used on addictions. As sometimes homeless people don't always do the best for themselves.
  • Always go with another person when passing out food etc. Never do this alone.

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