Nobody likes to be confronted by the homelessness – their needs often seem too overwhelming – but we all want to treat them fairly and justly. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:
1. Never Give Cash to a Homeless Person
Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol – even when the “hard luck” stories they tell are true. The following are some ideas of how to help without giving money:
- Keep fast food gift cards on hand and give them out when you run into someone in need.
- Wrap soft granola bars around bottles of water and keep a stash in your car to hand out.
- Give out white cotton socks – it’s like gold to tired blistered feet.
- Pack ‘travel size’ hygiene items in a plastic baggie and include shampoo, soap, razor, toothpaste and toothbrush etc.
2. Acknowledge the Person with Respect
A smile or quick hello is rare, so taking time to be friendly and respectful can give a homeless person a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. The underlying message is “I notice you, you’re a human being, and you’re worth my time.”
3. Take Precautions for Your Own Safety
Some living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don’t take unnecessary chances.
4. Pray for the Homeless
Exposure to the elements, absence of public bathrooms and bathing facilities, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person’s life. Pray for them.
5. Encourage the Homeless to Get Help Through Your Local Mission
The Olympia Union Gospel Mission (OUGM) at 413 Franklin St NE, Olympia, offers the following services:
- Daily meals
- Crisis counseling
- Day Center for those seeking a safe warm environment.
- “Meal Tickets” are available upon request to give to the homeless.
- Limited short-term shelter stay.
- Residential long-term addiction recovery program for single men, single women and women with children.
- Dental and Vision care to individuals residing in Thurston County, who have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, have no insurance and no means to pay.
6. Support Your Local Mission
You can donate financially or give your new or gently used clothing to the Mission’s clothing bank. OUGM receives no government funding and is solely supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the impoverished and homeless of our community.