Saturday, 1 March 2014

March - Help the Homeless (People)

March - Help the homeless

  • Now, I know in many areas you will pass homeless people in the street, sleeping in doorways, begging or busking, some may have a dog with them, others may have a cat, and I have even met one man who had a rabbit as his companion. Some will have ended up on the streets due to a rough childhood, others may have had one bad thing after another which has lead them into a down-ward spiral until they have hit the rock bottom which is where they are now. Others may have drug or alcohol issues or mental health issues, and sadly some of them may not even be homeless at all and are there to make money off the good will of others instead of going to work... but let's ignore the poser scum and focus on the genuine homeless.   

  • In the cases of those with drug or alcohol issues, there is the concern that if you donate money to them, it may be used to buy those things instead of it being spent on what they truly need. 

  •  Ideas to help:
  • If you have any spare (clean) hats, gloves, scarves that you no longer need, please consider giving them to the next homeless person you pass, they might help keep them warmer at night. 
  • Unfortunately, the homeless can also be victims of muggings and rape, so if you can afford to, consider making up a safety kit with items such as a whistle, attack alarm, pepper spray inside it to give to females and males alike. It could make a difference and help them to escape or get aid in those situations. 
  • Hygiene can also be an issue as those without shelter access won't be able to get to running water, so consider next time you're buying a packet of tissues, hand sanitizer gel, plasters (pre-cut sizes) or antiseptic wipes, buy doubles and give the spares away. 
  • If you see a homeless person with a companion animal, consider buying a small box of dried food, bottled water or a toy / treat for that animal. Pets (or Companion animals) can also be victims of homelessness and items for the companion animal will be appreciated. 
  • In some areas of America (I have not yet seen this scheme rolled out here) you can ask for a 'suspended' cup of tea or coffee in the coffee shops (coffee houses?)- this is a 2nd cup of tea or coffee kept on tab, paid for by you, but is then given to anybody who requests one. I don't have more info on this scheme but would love to know how it works exactly. ~ alternatively, if you are stopping off for coffee somewhere, consider buying a cup to go when you leave and give this to anybody who you think will need it. 

  • If you belong to a church or religious group, you may want to consider applying with your church* group to your vicar / priest / pastor / other leader (as appropriate) for permission to turn the main hall into overnight shelter. Places where this scheme has worked have run it in teams / shifts where all who use it have to arrive between 9 - 10.30 pm and leave at 7 am. Drugs, alcohol and sex is banned. The hall is then split into single sex areas where those who stay may have tea, coffee, sandwiches (or other hot food if provided by the church* group) they would then bed down for the night on their own sleeping bags (if they have them) or make-shift beds using donated items such as camp beds, fold away mattress etc. As this is a long term aid suggestion it may get costly so you would need a strong team who are prepared to donate food/drink or bedding supplies on a regular basis as well as take turns in shifts as it can be time demanding as over night supervision would be needed for security.  I have known of such schemes to only take place at certain times of year, for example winter only, Christmas week only, or on state holidays only. *this could also be a mosque, synagogue, meeting house, kingdom hall, other building or worship and of course the members of that location. 

  • And if helping set up a make-shift shelter isn't for you - consider helping out a local shelter instead! Many of the year round established shelters are run off donations, and requests for goods are common, typical items wanted are: New knickers / boxers (various sizes - factory sealed only) socks (New only) clean jumpers, clean t-shirts, shampoo / shower gel, toothpaste / tooth brushes, deodorant, blankets, bedding items can all be used by them. so dig out those toiletry sets that you got for Christmas but never used. Bare in mind that some of these items can be purchased for as low as 50p / $1 in the supermarket so it need not be heavy on your wallet. 

  • A final way to help, and this might not be available world-wide, but it is in most areas of the UK, is buy copies of THE BIG ISSUE. For those not in the know, The Big Issue is a charity magazine published on a weekly / fortnightly basis and is sold by street vendors. The street vendors are in fact homeless, and the magazine sales help generate an income for them, gain work experience so that they may then go on to get a fixed address and a bank account. Most banks will not give an account unless you have a fixed address, and you cannot get a full job without an account, so it helps them to help themselves get out of their current situation. For my area, the north-west, it is known as 'The Big Issue in the North' but it is also run in other areas, see London office, for more information. I will be buying copies myself on a regular basis through out the year, but am also hoping to do a spot-light on The Big Issue in the North at some point in March. More details to follow as the month progresses. 

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