Homelessness has always been an issue in the United States, but it’s a bigger problem now more than ever. Since the recession began in 2008, homelessness has increased by 12%. Every year, between 2.3 million and 3.5 million people experience homelessness at least for one night. But of those people, about 30% have been homeless for over two years.
When you see a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, all bundled up in ratty blankets and clothes, holding a sign asking for money… what do you think? Do you think he’s just lazy and unmotivated? Do you think he should just get a job? Do you assume he’s probably on drugs and an alcoholic, and he would spend any money you give him on a beer and a joint?
That might be the case sometimes, but usually it’s not.
The three greatest causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, poverty, and unemployment. Domestic violence is often a reason for homelessness too. Sometimes people get stuck in tough situations that aren’t very easy to get out of. Maybe they had a great job and a big house, but they got laid off and were unable to find more work in that field. Maybe someone got sick or injured, and they had so many medical bills that they weren’t able to pay rent. You never know what that person’s story is and what happened to force them onto the streets. Sometimes it’s a lot more complicated than just getting a job. How are you supposed to get a job when you don’t have a home to shower or brush your teeth in, or a place to do laundry?
There are also more homeless families now than there have been in the past. About 36% of homeless people are families with children. About 7% of homeless people are unaccompanied minors.
So what are we supposed to do about it? There are plenty of things you can do:
- If you go out to eat and have some leftovers, give them to a homeless person instead of taking them home.
- Give them a little bit of money. Sure, you risk them buying booze or drugs with it. But they might actually buy themselves some food and water.
- Go through your closet at home, and give anything you don’t wear anymore to a homeless person.
- Put together some bags full of non-perishable food and toiletries and keep them in your car. Every time you see a homeless person, give them one or two bags.
- Get a bunch of $5 or $10 gift cards to fast food restaurants and grocery stores, and hand them out.
- Donate money, food, toiletries, clothing, or ANYTHING ELSE you can think of to a local shelter or organization. They will be happy to accept any kind of donations, and will be able to find someone who can use it.
- Develop a list of local shelters and food banks and hand them out to homeless people.
- If you keep cans and bottles to recycle, give them all to a homeless person instead.
- Give toys to homeless children, or donate them to a local shelter.
If you live in Yamhill County, you can donate anything to Youth Outreach and we will give it to a teen who needs it.
Stop thinking about it and just DO something today. There are millions of homeless people who need help RIGHT NOW. Don’t put it off anymore. Help us make a difference in someone’s life!