“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘ Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers
Wanting to be a helper is human nature.
We all see people on the street — people experiencing homelessness, poverty, hunger and addiction — and we try our best to lend a hand. But these issues are so complex, and these people are so different, that it can be difficult to know how to help.
That’s why we’ve come up with a few ideas for how you might help your neighbors in need.
1. Be a good listener
The next time you find yourself in a conversation with a homeless person, lend an ear and practice active listening. A great way to express care is by having a respectful and heartfelt conversation. We all want to be heard, and letting a person talk about their thoughts and feelings can really make a difference to someone struggling. You might hear something you need that day, or find a way to provide hope and encouragement.
2. Learn their names
Learning and calling homeless individuals by their names can help restore dignity and self-worth. It can cause people living on the streets to feel important and valued. For our neighbors in need, remembering and calling someone by their right name transcends language. It calls deeply to identity and individuality. It creates feelings of safety, respect and value. For more on this, read Dignity of a Name.
3. Provide hope, not cash
Every homeless person has a different story, some of which include struggles with addiction and alcoholism. That makes helping someone on the streets a little more complicated. To avoid enabling self-destructive behaviors, don’t give them cash or pocket change. Instead, encourage them to come to the Mission to address their long-term needs and life goals.
4. Give out “blessing bags”
A great was to provide essential items to men and women in need is by preparing and handing out “blessing bags.” This is a great alternative to giving cash on the street. Blessing bags often include toiletries, socks, gloves and small food items. Gift cards are also a great addition! For more information about how to prepare the perfect blessing bag, download this PDF guide.
5. Help them to the Mission
Rather than give someone money or a ride — both of which could have adverse effects — direct those in need to Springs Rescue Mission. If they’re close, point the way. If not, buy them a bus pass or call them an Uber/Lyft/cab. At the Mission, guests receive a hearty meal, a warm bed, a hot shower and access to a case manager who can help them find work, healthcare and housing.
6. Get involved — donate or volunteer
In recent years, donors have helped expand the Mission’s campus and programs — transforming lives and helping thousands of people overcome homelessness, hunger and addiction. To support our guests and restore hope in their lives, you can give on a monthly basis by becoming a Good Samaritan Sponsor. Another great way to help is by volunteering your time weekly to help serve meals in Samaritan’s Kitchen or process donated goods and food in our warehouse.
7. Love Bigger
Homeless people are often dehumanized — by traumas, addictions, circumstances and the fears of others. But they are people just like you and me, deserving of kindness and compassion. The simplest and most impactful way to help a homeless person is to make them feel seen, loved and worthwhile. It can be as easy as smiling, making eye contact, shaking someone’s hand or calling them by name. We are all unique humans with complex stories. We are all sometimes in need of grace and a helping hand.
Consistently provide nutritious meals, a bed and compassionate care for neighbors in need by becoming a Good Samaritan Sponsor today! For just $25 a month, you’ll help transform the life of a homeless man or woman in Colorado Springs.
Visit springsrescuemission.org/gss to learn more.