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7 Practical Ways We Can Help Someone Experiencing Homelessness

On a single night in January 2016, the number of men, women and children in America experiencing homelessness was 564,000. Those could fill nearly 8 NFL stadiums.

· by Mark P Fisher,CEO Inspiring Growth

1) Make eye contact and smile

Most feel invisible. It might feel a bit weird or scary at first, but never in my countless experiences has someone attacked me or gotten angry for smiling.

 

“You never know whose eyes God is watching you out of.

It ain’t gonna be your preacher or Sunday school teacher,

it might be a fellow like me. It’s not me,

but it could be someone like me”

 

– Denver Moore (author of book made movie Same Kind of Different as Me and formerly homeless)

 

Denver Moore, Ron Hall - Same Kind of Different As Me.

2) Be hospitable: show empathy - say Hi

Homelessness is extremely isolating. Just saying “hello” and smiling can encourage a person - even make their day.

 

“The things you keep forever are the things you give away for nothing.”

– Denver Moore

 

3) Stop.

Introduce yourself. Sit for a moment. Just like you were at a party. Ask questions. Listen to their story. This simple act of kindness reminds them - they are human, valuable and someone cares. Be safe and smart. Trust your instincts. Do it with a friend. In my experiences of sitting, chatting and listening I have been better equipped to know a person’s needs so I can do #4.

talking with someone experiencing homeless can give encouragement and hope

”Empathy goes a long way into understanding the many reasons why people become homeless. Sudden life events such as unemployment, lack of affordable housing, or a medical condition can all force people into homeless.”

- Meghan Murphy of HandUp.org

4) Respond:

Just like you would with a friend. I sat with a homeless man in Philly one night after coming out of a movie. What intrigued me was what he was doing behind his ‘sign’ asking for help: reading. So I introduced myself, asked if I could sit with him and queried about his book. That naturally opened a fascinating conversation. Said he really likes to read. I went to my car and grabbed a copy of the book that changed my attitude toward the ‘least’ of these in our world - Same Kind of Different as Me. I felt nudged to slip a $20 in the book. When I gave it to him, he thanked me but quickly said, "appreciate the money…but I might buy something you may not approve of.” I smiled and said, “not up to me, it’s a gift. Use it as you need.”

 

According to a recent Baylor University study,

“People don’t become homeless when they run out of money, at least not right away. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

 

“The things you keep forever are the things you give away for nothing.” – Denver Moore

5) Give something tangible:

Coffee, meal, gift card, carry blessing bags in your car. I have seen folks keep zip-lock bags in their cars full of socks, tooth paste/brushes, sunscreen, water, energy bars, bus tickets. Your gift of kindness gives both something tangible as well as intangible – hope, love and encouragement.

 

“Nobody can help everybody - but everybody can help somebody.”

– Denver Moore

 

6) Steer, invite, take:

Connect with your local homeless shelter. Find out who and how they help. Get brochures or cards to give to someone experiencing homelessness. Offer to take them. I know, this is getting into the weeds. It could get messy. Be wise. Use good judgement. But again, never in all my experiences have I regretted steering, inviting or taking someone to a safe place. (Read about my night at a homeless shelter called: 'What is your white, honkey suburban ass doing in the ghetto?')

7) Make the Same Kind of Difference:

  • Volunteer: As Meghan Murphy of HandUp.org encourages, “Spend your free time where it counts, whether it’s serving meals in a homeless shelter or providing tutoring with homeless youth.”
  • Donate to a local nonprofit who serves the homeless, hungry, abused or addicted. Or, make a tax deductible gift to the national movement: The Same Kind of Different as Me Foundation. It is the ‘911’ for agencies who serve the homeless all over the country.
  • Bring friends to the movie The the inspiring true story is based on the New York Times bestseller by my friend and international art dealer Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear), who befriends a homeless man (Djimon Hounsou) in hopes of saving his struggling marriage to Debbie (Renée Zellweger), a woman whose dreams will lead all three of them on the most remarkable journey of their lives. Jon Voight plays Hall’s father, with whom he reconciles thanks to the revelations of his new life. 

Mark P. Fisher (seen above with Djimon Hounsou, Ron Hall and Greg Kinnear) is a social entrepreneur, Founder and Chief Encourager with Inspiring Growth, husband of one, father to 5, (actually 8 with married kids) and is called Papa by two cute little granddaughters.

“On a single night in January 2016, the number of men, women and children in America experiencing homelessness was 564,000. Those could fill nearly 8 NFL stadiums.” - The State of Homelessness in America 2016 (April 2016). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Washington, DC.

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