The holiday spirit is everywhere right now. People are gearing up to celebrate the upcoming holidays by shopping, decorating and attending celebratory holiday events. We usually focus on giving to those closest to us and sometimes forget those who need it the most. Sometimes the less fortunate can range from a homeless individual to someone who is currently facing difficulties during the holidays. Random acts of kindness are in high demand this year. Currently, the state of Washington is facing a crisis when it comes to their homeless. 2016 has seen a rise in the amount of homeless people in the state and has been steadily rising since 2013. According to the Seattle Times, “The 2016 estimate of people without shelter showed a 19 percent increase over last year, and the 2015 tally of 3,772 was a significant increase over the count in 2014.” Many people are suffering in the community and reaching out even in a small way can make a huge difference. Helping those in need, whether it be a homeless person or someone who needs support, doesn’t always have to be a monetary donation. There are many ways to give to those who need it during this holiday season.
The best way to start is to educate yourself about the homeless as individuals. Learn about who they are as people. Find out why they are homeless. Is it because they lost their job, or maybe due to a mental illness? Learn about the different reasons for homelessness and understand that each situation is unique. Talk with them to find out what their story is and what they need. This connection will help you to see them as individuals. Treat them as you would treat a family or a friend who has fallen on rough times. Learning and educating yourself will help you to understand the best way to help the less fortunate in the area. Developing respect for the homeless will help you to empathize with their situation. Also, educate your children about the plight of the people living on the street.
Volunteering your time to help the homeless doesn’t always have to be in a soup kitchen. Helping them to get back on their feet is another way to help those in need. The homeless do not always know where to start when it comes to trying to transition off the streets. There are government aid programs out there that most homeless people aren’t even aware that they exist. Be an advocate or an intermediary for these people by helping them find these programs and help them to apply. Also if you have a business or know of places that are looking to hire, help to employ the homeless. Volunteer your professional services. If you are an attorney, you can help with legal work, or a therapist can help them work through the stress of being homeless. If they are transitioning off the streets, volunteer to help them learn how basic life skills like writing a resume, or paying bills. These steps will help to get them off the streets and back on their feet.
Homeless children are the most disenfranchised group in a community’s population. They are stuck in a pretty hopeless situation and can do little to get themselves out of it. They very rarely have the opportunity to interact with other children their own age. They sometimes can’t attend school or they do not have the opportunity to have friends over to their house or vice versa. Speak with your local shelter about bringing your children by to play with the other kids in the shelter. Bring along some toys and some books for the children to play with. This will also teach your children to emphasize with others and will help them grow into adults that will also give back to their community. Tutoring the children in the shelter is also another way to help them. Certain shelters have programs that you can volunteer for to help tutor children and help them with their homework. Sometimes children will rarely leave the shelter so volunteering to take them out for a fun activity like going to the aquarium or to a park. Spending time with homeless children in any capacity will be very much appreciated.
Getting involved politically can help raise awareness for the homeless and their plight can help to make their situation better. Write to your local political representative about what is happening in your community. If the community is lacking certain programs to help the homeless write your representative letting them know what they can do to help. Also, it takes many letters and even an in-person visit to get the attention of your representative. Personal visits are the most effective so make time to visit your local government representative. Standing up for the civil rights of the homeless is so important because a majority of the time they are incapable of voting. Also, pushing for state homeless prevention programs in your community will help to stop the problem before it begins. When contacting your local public official, speak with them about prevention programs for families who are about to be evicted from their homes or have suffered from a job loss.
The true spirit of the holidays is in giving to others. When you give back to your community, you are helping to build a better community. Spend time this holiday season helping those in need. Helping the homeless doesn’t always have to entail a monetary donation, giving your time, your concern, and your energy will make a huge difference. The city of Puyallup has a few shelters that could use your time this holiday season. If you have a favorite charity or have ideas for helping the homeless, tweet us and let us know!