BY BRITTANY ORIE
Homelessness is a prevailing crisis that exists not only in our country, but all over the world. How many times do you drive to work or visit downtown and pass by a homeless person somberly holding up a “HOMELESS—ANYTHING WOULD HELP. GOD BLESS” cardboard sign? How often do you think, “Gosh, I want to do something to help them in a bigger way, but I just don’t know how?” Sometimes it’s more beneficial to give the homeless more than just a dollar at a stoplight. Before knowing how to become a better blessing to the homeless, here are some enlightening facts about homelessness in the U.S. as of 2016:
- Over 560,000 people in the U.S. are homeless. That’s over half a million people! These people either sleep on the streets, live in cars, homeless shelters, or in transitional housing. Over 200,000 are in families and some of them are children.
- 4 million veterans are at risk of being homeless. This is likely due to poverty, overcrowding in government housing, and lack of support networks. War-related illnesses and disorders also play a contributing role: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical disabilities, depression, anxiety, and addiction.
- Young adults under the age of 24 experience homeless episodes longer than one week. They are not willing to disclose the fact that they are experiencing homelessness, nor do they identify with being homeless. Most of them do not stay in the same areas as homeless people who are in an older age group.
- Over 100,000 LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are homeless. Many people in this group say that they live in a community that doesn’t accept their lifestyle, so a lot of these individuals run away. They are running away from families who abuse and reject them because of their choices.
- Who is at risk of homelessness? Veterans, people with disabilities, and single-parent families are all at risk. The working poor, people recently released from prison, and young adults who have been emancipated from foster care are also at high risk of homelessness.
Homelessness comes in all shapes and sizes. Though it’s an unfortunate reality, there are greater ways to help them. One of those ways is illustrated through homeless care packages! This consists of filling up a bag or a small box with necessities that the homeless will greatly benefit from. Consider these necessities below:
- Water—our bodies need plenty of water daily. It keeps us from fatigue and dehydration. It also helps to improve our overall health.
- Fruits, vegetables, and snacks—give them nourishment! Giving them real food instead of money will give them energy and fulfillment. Lots of restaurants, even fast food chains, don’t cater to the homeless so it’s a bigger blessing to give food…healthy food, especially!
- A Bible or an inspiring book—this will give them hope in difficult times and will encourage them to persevere and gain patience. This may also help bring a lost soul to salvation!
- A clothing item—any clothing item! Whether it’s a top, pants, a coat, or an extra pair of shoes and socks, a person in need will greatly appreciate it, especially during the cold seasons.
- Feminine products—it’s so important to stay sensitive to the needs of a homeless woman’s needs. Give them something that could make their situation easier.
- Hygienic products—help the homeless keep their hygiene intact by giving them things such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, moist towelettes, deodorant, soap, and diapers (if they have children).
- Puzzles, games, and booklets—there are many families with children who are homeless. Keep their needs in mind as you include things that children will enjoy such as coloring books, puzzles, and educational booklets. This is great for their brains as well!
- Vitamins—even if the homeless don’t eat every single day, it’s important to keep essential vitamins in our system. This will give them extra nourishment while building up their immune system.
So, remember what the cardboard sign says: “ANYTHING WILL HELP.” This means absolutely anything. You can either keep these care packages in your car ready to give to the homeless, or you can donate them to your local homeless shelter!