5 Gifts To Give Homeless People You Encounter This Holiday Season & Year Round
Being homeless is degrading and difficult, to say the least. By giving even 1 of these 5 gifts this holiday season, you'll undoubtedly bring a sparkle to someone's life. Take it from a man who's been there, on the streets.
First and foremost, before water, food, shelter, warmth, or anything else, giving anyone you interact with the grace and presence of your genuine humanity will go a long way. It could be as simple as looking someone in the eye, saying good morning or taking 5 minutes out of your busy, privileged day to talk about their life - the life of someone who has a whole other world of problems from your own. Perhaps ask them some questions about where they're going or where they're headed. Your questions or prompts could serve as a kickstart for their day and albeit a touch dramatic, their lives. But even just recognizing their struggle and their fight - being empathetic to their journey - is a gift. Because no one who finds themselves homeless or on the streets wants to be there. And they don't deserve to be treated as less human just because of their current situation. So say hello. Strike up a conversation. Give humanity.
Water, tea, juice, you name it - anything helps quench your thirst when you're homeless. And if you're "living off the land" as I used to call it in my manic, homeless state, you're roaming about looking for leftover coffees and beverages everywhere. And I'll state this below, but a hot tip for anyone looking to help the homeless is to place items within and under coverage of a PHONE BOOTH. They still exist here in NYC and there are a few in other cities as well, and they can serve as the perfect gathering place for beverages and food donations to the homeless. So go ahead, and feel free to deposit your unfinished drinks in phone booths, on window sills of businesses, wherever you can find. You'd be surprised at how quickly someone can find and appreciate your leftovers. Additionally, I encourage you to buy an extra bottle of water next time you buy one for yourself. Keep it with you or go on a walk and if in a major city like NYC, there's no doubt you'll find someone to give it to. If even that means leaving it next to them while they're sleeping. Give hydration.
Have leftovers from your gargantuan American proportions or have the ability to buy a Slim Jim and leave it in a phone booth? Do so. Someone will find it and they'll be grateful to you for the sustenance. We all have to eat, and when you're homeless, often times this is your main focus. Related, if engaged by someone who is homeless and asking for food, take them up on it. In NYC there are food spots within walking distance, so treat them to a deli sandwich, or trust them to take your $5 to Taco Bell. If you have the ability to help someone eat from a source other than a trash can or dumpster, act on it. Give food.
Yes, sometimes it's as simple as giving something from your own wealth and pocket to someone less fortunate. Try it sometime. For those who say no way, their concern is often couched in the guise of not wanting to enable addicts, whether it be with drugs or alcohol. But I tell you what, when I was on the street my last concern was drugs and alcohol, I wanted to eat. So much so that I ate out of trashcans and even dumpster dived. You can usually tell when someone is sincere in their desire to use funds for good, so try to take them for their word. Think of what an impact your contribution to another's journey can have. I'm not saying give away your entire savings or whatever is in your wallet, but I guarantee you that giving someone in need a $5, $10 or $20 bill will go a long way in changing your own life and perspective, not to mention theirs. If you want a challenge, I say give out a $20 sometime and you'll feel the impact much more so than when you give $20 to your favorite non-profit online. Give charity.
An organization I love and have volunteered with some since moving back to NYC is called Backpacks for the Streets. And I love this organization for several reasons. Namely, because it helps the homeless, but primarily because it provides ownership to men and women on the street in the form of a backpack with plenty of life's necessities. If you're not homeless, you take for granted the use of functioning pen/pencil and clean paper. If you're not homeless, you take for granted your access to clean water and drink. If you're not homeless, you take for granted knowing where you next meal is coming from. And if you're not homeless, you take for granted having access to basic toiletries and personal hygiene essentials. All of these things and more are offered in the standard backpacks handed out by Backpacks for the Streets. And such a backpack or bag can be easily replicated by you this season. Give ownership.