Each week, we go out into Wellington to serve up our healthy meals to the homeless community, using the proceeds from our brownie product to help us gift food. Supporting the community is big passion of mine and I’ve come face to face with the stigma surrounding people living on the streets.
There are as many as 1.6 billion people without adequate housing around the world. This is why I encourage anyone and everyone to do what they can to help. The gift of time, money, resources or skills will make a huge difference to a homeless person.
I believe that small, kind gestures can go a long way. So, here are six small actions we can all take to care for the homeless…
1. Show respect
Don’t treat a homeless person as if they’re invisible. Making eye contact or saying “good morning” to someone instead of ignoring them is safe, easy and costs nothing.
Many people experiencing homelessness say that the loss of dignity that comes with their situation is harder to bear than the loss of actual physical things.
2. Donate seasonal clothing
The winter season feels extra-long when you’re living on the streets. There’s a high risk of hypothermia when staying outside for long periods of time. If you see someone who is homeless in winter, offer blankets, food, warm socks, beanies or warm essentials.
Summertime is also tough. You can care for the homeless by offering a bottle of water and a clean t-shirt. It will make a big difference to someone in the sweltering heat. Contact your local homeless charity and find out the items that they are most desperate for. Shoes and food are usually most in-demand.
3. Volunteer your time when you can
Sign up to work an evening shift at your local homeless shelter. Find out what they need and how you can help. You don’t always need to commit to regular hours so you can still make giving back work around you.
4. Don’t forget the furry friends
Lots of homeless people have dogs, so if you know that someone local sleeps rough with their canine companion why not drop by with some dog food? Both the owner and pet will be grateful of the kind gesture.
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5. Be mindful
You may encounter someone who is having a really rough time and may be unable to appreciate your help. Please, don’t be discouraged. Just smile and keep on your way. You may find someone else to help.
6. Research local charities
Alongside Heart Parcels, I also follow other local homeless charities – one of my favourites is the Wellington City Mission. They have just partnered with an Australian-based company called Orange Sky, to bring out a new mobile laundry van, complete with a hot shower. It’ll be excellent for people living rough on the streets and for people living in poverty with no hot water.
Feeling inspired to help? The most effective way to care for the homeless is to go local. A quick online search will help you find your local charities and initiatives, wherever you are in the world.
One thing I always remember is that anybody can become homeless. Life can change in an instant! Whether it’s a relationship breakdown, losing a job or mental or physical health problems – people become homeless for lots of reasons. Being homeless can also make many of these problems even harder to resolve.
Similarly, small acts of genuine compassion can be a big help. My friend Kawana used to come to our weekly homeless dinners and is now living in his own warm home – he often comes back to our takeaway cafe to visit!
So, next time you pass someone on the streets, spare a thought for who they are as a person and consider how you might be able to help.