One of the most common concerns Denver Rescue Mission staff members get goes something like this, “I want to help the homeless woman (or man) I see standing on the corner, but I don’t want to give them money, how can I help?”
It’s a great question, and it comes from a good place. People in Denver want to help, but in doing so, they don’t want to enable unhealthy spending habits or an addiction. It may go without saying, but not all people living on the street are homeless because of poor decisions. In fact, of the people Denver Rescue Mission serves in its programs, the number one reason people say they are experiencing homelessness is because of job loss.
Wayne, a STAR Transitional Program participant at Denver Rescue Mission, talked about how he and his family became homeless. “I was working construction, setting up roadblocks for work crews. I was living in an apartment, paying rent. But then work started to slow down and they were forced to lay a lot of us off. When that happened, I felt worthless, like the biggest failure in the world. I couldn’t find another job in time to pay the rent. It spiraled downward from there. Before we found the Mission, we were homeless for nearly two years.”
Twenty-nine percent of the people enrolled in Mission programs have stories like Wayne’s—they lost their job, they couldn’t afford rent and then they became homeless. But the concern many people have when it comes to giving a homeless person money isn’t without base. According to Denver Rescue Mission’s data, the number two reason people say they’re homeless is because of substance abuse.
So, that concern you might have about giving a person on the street cash can be valid, and because of that, here are three simple things you can give a person experiencing homelessness other than money.
If you commute to work, and you pass by the same person every morning on your route, simply acknowledging the person’s presence will make a difference. It’s commonplace for commuters to drive by a person and look the other way or avoid making eye contact. But a simple acknowledgment like a smile or a wave will remind that person that someone sees them and that they matter.
2.) Hygiene Products
Think about all the hygiene items you use when you go to bed at night or wake up in the morning. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, shampoo, etc. These are all essential needs for our homeless neighbors.
Some people living on the street have one pair of shoes and one pair of socks. Places, like the Lawrence Street Community Center, provides them with an opportunity to wash their clothes for free, but a pack of socks would go a long way for many people on the street.
For more ideas on how you can give back to your homeless and hurting neighbors, visit DenverRescueMission.org/GiveBack125.