How to Help the Homeless, and What NOT to Do

Homeless people. Bad fortune has befallen them. It could happen to any of us. A house fire destroys everything you own, everything you have ever known. Maybe you have a drug problem, and if it gets out of hand you waste your money on drugs instead of paying rent. Perhaps you are trying to get away from an abusive spouse. Or maybe you have 4 kids, you're working 2 jobs, a single parent, but you still got served that dreaded eviction notice because it just isn't enough. Oftentimes veterans are homeless because of PTSD, being unable to assimilate themselves back into everyday lives. They have changed and there isn't enough support to help them.

Point is, I've seen several questions circulating about what you do when you see beggars. Homeless people. People in need. Someone who looks like they haven't eaten in days. Well I see this on a daily basis. There are lessons I've learned, and I have done what I can to help. I don't do it for the thanks. I do it because my family has been through hard times too, and no one should go cold or hungry on a frozen winter night.

This is a picture of a shelter someone who was homeless has created to sleep in. The background picture is of Detroit, the Renaissance Center. In the winter, 'tent cities' are created in stretches of open fields. Our winters get bitter. Down to -20 for our windchills, if not colder. Sometimes the Warren mayor will pay for rooms for the homeless if it is so cold that bodies of homeless people are being found outside.
This is a picture of a shelter someone who was homeless has created to sleep in. The background picture is of Detroit, the Renaissance Center. In the winter, 'tent cities' are created in stretches of open fields. Our winters get bitter. Down to -20 for our windchills, if not colder. Sometimes the Warren mayor will pay for rooms for the homeless if it is so cold that bodies of homeless people are being found outside.

Things you can do to help the homeless.

You can offer them food or drinks.

I always carry granola bars, bottles of water, and other small packaged, non perishable food items in my car, close enough that I can reach them if I see someone who's asking for help. I put on my flashers, NEVER get out of the car, I only roll down my window enough to hand out the food items/water because it can be risky, some people will grab your arm and ask for money instead. Never give out money, but we will get to that in a later point.

A case of water here is 2$. A pack of 8 or so granola bars can be found for 1$ on sale. So 5 dollars and you can give a snack and water to 24 people who need help. Oftentimes I give out two waters since it can be hot outside. But at most, it costs me 5$ a week to keep stuff in my car to give out. I spend more than that on one meal.

You can find groups that go out and help homeless populations.

My church used to go out every Wednesday during the winter to hand out gloves, hand warmers, bottles of water, snacks and food, donated clothes, hygiene products like pads or toothbrushes and floss, whatever we could get donations for, we went out and we gave. If you don't have money or food to give, just give your time! You get out, get involved in your community. Even if you are just trying to punch some sort of volunteer hours, this is a great way to get out there and do some good at the same time.

However my church went to some extremely rough areas of Detroit. I guess we didn't fear since we had trust in God, and also my dad's 9mm... If you do choose to go out with a church or a volunteer group, make sure you are familiar with where you are going, and you know what protection measures are being taken so you are not taking unnecessary risks.

Things you should absolutely not do.

Don't give out money!!!

Sometimes honest people do have misfortune and become homeless. It happens. But lots of times, the homeless population consists of people who have addictions so bad that they lost their homes due to using their money on their addiction, not bills. Whether, it's drugs, alcohol, gambling, a bad shopping addiction, or some sort of mental illness, I absolutely NEVER give out money. You are just feeding their addiction. I'd rather give them a meal, not another syringe to put in their arm, which is what your money will be going to.

There is the rare person who also makes a living off of begging. My dad tells me stories of a guy he used to give money to every week, who was eventually made out, and ended up on the news for living large and in a great home with a family who was well cared for by stranger's money.

Never give out money. I'll say it till the cows come home.

Never get out of your car in a bad area.

I understand wanting to get out of your car to run someone some water or food if It's a low traffic time and you see someone begging across the street. But don't do this. You can easily be jumped, car jacked, robbed, etc. What you should do, is roll your window down just enough to put what you want to give out the window. Never all the way down. If they want what you're offering, they will come up and take it, hopefully with some manners and a thank you. Never offer money. If they try to grab your hand, roll the window up immediately.

The summary

I know this wasn't an extremely long or extensive take, but it covers the basics. Helping out is not difficult, but always practice safe habits. Use your flashers if you're handing something out of your window. Don't give out money. You can do food or water instead, that way you know your money isn't going to drugs. Feel free to offer someone your church address, or if you know of a job opportunity for them, but be safe and always remember that anything can happen. Anyone could become homeless with simple bad luck. Be respectful and know that things happen, homeless people are still people. Don't be disrespectful or rude.

Thanks for reading myTake, have a nice day and don't forget to upvote or add advice if you have some of your own!

How to Help the Homeless, and What NOT to Do

How to Help the Homeless, and What NOT to Do

How to Help the Homeless, and What NOT to Do

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What Guys Said 17

  • Don't give out money? Bullshit-- if someone's asking for money, then that's what they want. You have no idea what they'll use it for. It may be for alcohol or whatever, or it may not be. What, people shouldn't be allowed to have a beer because they don't have a roof over their head? If you don't want to give them money, then don't, but if that's what they're asking for, you aren't doing shit for them by trying to give them a granola bar that they don't want. They aren't stupid. Also, "never get out of your car in a bad area" doesn't really make any sense, and simply further gives people the impression that like "oh no there's homeless people around here, this must be a baaaad area" or something, when isn't the entire point of your post that you allegedly want to *help* homeless people? Then why are you acknowledging some type of imaginary barrier between you and them? A "bad area?"

    Anyway, I think your post is well-intentioned but naive. Good intentions do matter though, so thanks for writing this.

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    • 1. Giving out money feeds their addiction. Which keeps them on the streets because they will never get clean if people keep giving out money to people who are addicted to drugs, whatever. The only time I would see it understandable for them to buy alcohol is in the winter because it keeps them warm.

      Never get out of your car in a bad area. Typically beggars are not tolerated in the nicest areas. Where I live, you are likely to get jumped if you get out of your car to help someone. My mom was carjacked once simply because she stopped at a red light at night.

      I am far from naive on this topic, I've been doing homeless outreach for years with my church. The only thing I forgot to mention, which someone did say in the comments, was that socks are literally one of the most important and overlooked items that people need.

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    • I am not afraid of them - I avoid dangerous situations wherever possible. My question was, have YOU ever been without? Do you know what that is like? Because I do. I don't help the homeless because I want to feel good - I do it because I know what it is like to be without.

    • Whatever. The downvotes speak for themselves on your opinion.

  • One thing homeless people need and is very often overllooked is new socks. They are very inexpensive and a good pair will go a long way to help keep their feet warm.

    Another thing I have seen people do is to go to a place like GoodWill and buy a woman's purse. Place canned foods, a warm hat, female hygiene products, bottled water, etc in it and simply had them the purse.

    Things the us more fortunate take for granted is worth its weight in gold to a homeless person.

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  • here at NYC there's a lot of fake homeless people who goes on the public transit/subway to tell sad stories and then ask for money. also, yesterday at times square i saw a guy sitting with a dog and holding a sign that says "need money for food for me and my dog", today i passed by again after my chiropractor adjustment and it was a girl holding the same cardboard sign and sitting with the same dog as the guy did from yesterday.

    at least the mexican goes on the subway to play a guitar and sing a song and then ask for money. but these white and black people pretend to be homeless trying to scam some easy money. that's why i just tell them "sorry, i don't have cash on me" and they leave me alone to go ask another person.

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    • I saw that the new York homeless population is far more than where I live.

      And yeah even if I have cash on me, I always say I don't carry cash because some people here will rob you if they think you have money on you.

    • yeah, although there are a lot of "real" homeless people here at NYC, but there are also a lot of people who takes advantage to try to get free money pretending to be homeless people. more often we would see the real homeless people during the winter, because they want to sleep inside the subway where it's warm. when the weather starts getting warm, we'll barely see any real homeless people sleeping inside the subways.

      there's a lot of people who begs for money and once they have to go somewhere or do something else, they walk to an isolated area to take off their fake homeless outfit and getting inside their nice car parked a few blocks away.

    • This is exactly part of the reason why I will never give out money. Sometimes people do fake it. Or it goes to drugs. I like to know Im actually helping.

  • This was helpful man
    Normally I would’ve given money...

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    • Don't. It's ok, I understand why people would want to. I'm sure some people could use it responsibly, but many people will use it on feeding the addictions that landed them in their situation in the first place. I always do non perishable goods

    • So cabs and stuff
      Thanks man

  • Genuinely never seen a homeless person in my country once in my near 20 years on this earth...

    Sounds more like an issue with your country.

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  • Useful notices. thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

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  • Did you know immigrants are better taken care of than our homeless?

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  • Good Take. Exactly why I don't give money. You can buy them food and water. I've also contacted homeless shelter if I saw somebody homeless.

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  • I gave a guy a bottle of water last week. He said his car had broken down and he was trying to hitch back to the reservation.

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  • I have given an apt in rent to a social housing service, at 30% under market price.

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  • Wow Seattle pales in comparison to NY and LA, even though everybody is talking about it

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  • Great take.

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  • My country doesn't have homeless people. Copy us.

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  • Keep up the good work msmusic.

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  • I know how

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  • Homelessness cannot be solved. People are saying we need to stop the homeless problem, but we can't. It can be managed, but not solved. In the world that we live in, not everyone can win. Some people need to be winners and others need to be losers. If everyone in society won, society would collapse.

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  • Good take of yours

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What Girls Said 8

  • This was maybe around a year ago... there was a homeless person outside of a grocery store asking for food. We have just came out of it when we saw her. When we tried to give her the money to complete her shopping list, she refused it. She said she’ll only accept it if someone were to go in the store and but the stuff because she doesn’t want people to think she is doing something else with the money

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    • That's responsible and prideful. She doesn't want to be viewed as bad or an addict. Or maybe she was an addict, and knew she would spend the money if she had it, so she wanted someone else to buy groceries for her so she wouldn't spend it.

  • I would only buy them food and clothes.
    One time, I helped a homeless guy to get a job at my uncle's store. He was smart but down on his luck. He still works there.

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    • That's awesome. And yes plenty of people are simply having bad luck. Many are addicts yes, but many aren't.

  • I have given money to homeless people, I've given them cigarettes and even shared my lunch with some of them. The only reason I do it is because, they have done it for me. And yes homeless people can be the salt of the earth and share what they have once when I was a kid at 12, I got lost leaving a friends house who lived in another city and got on the wrong bus and ended up somewhere I had never been before and I had no more bus fare and no way to get home and I just kinda walked around and I was crying and a homeless man who walking by saw me and asked if I was alright and I told him what was going on and he pulled out a bus schedule out a bag that he was carrying and asked me which city I lived in and street names near there and we sat down on the curb and he looked up which bus routes I needed to take to get home and he gave me enough change for the fare and walked me to the bus stop, even waited with me until the bus that I needed arrived. I remember being a little scared of him because of his dingy appearance and long greasy beard but, he was very kind and funny too. I wondered if he had kids of his own once and maybe that was why he was being so nice. Before I got on the bus when it arrived, I remember turning to him and hugging him before I ran into the open doors of the bus and after I paid the fare, looked out of the window as the bus was leaving and saw him still standing there grinning and waving good bye. I'll probably never forget that act of kindness as long as I live. 💙

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  • There are a lot of inaccuracies and fantasies in this article. A fire destroys everything you have is fine if you do not have much and were stupid enough not to get insurance. But most people have more than what they can fit into one house and have insurance.
    Some so called homeless do it as a job./ they pretend to be homeless, they do it to get money off working people and gain their sympathy.
    I have helped homeless people but you have to be careful who you help, how and why, and make sure they are not spongers and freeloaders who just want an easy life and go back to being the same after.

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    • I believe my family has insurance but there's a deductible on it. We live paycheck to paycheck right now. However we do fit everything we own into our house. I didn't realize that some people don't. And there are plenty of stupid people out there, or simply people who can't afford house insurance because like I said, they're barely making ends meet. It's not a fantasy where I live. It's reality.

      And yes I agree you do have to be careful with who you help. Which is why I stressed to NEVER give money out. Big no no. I only do bottles of water or food

  • This was lovely and informative, thank you for sharing this, sweet angel. <3

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  • Interesting. And I like help those who are in need of things

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  • I refuse to give pan handlers money.

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  • True yeah. Nice take!

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