5 Ways to Be a Blessing to the Homeless This Winter

Going back and forth between classes, more often than not you see a homeless person. Living in a major city like Atlanta can desensitize us from wanting to help the homeless because we see them so often.

You may hear your friend complain about the cold as the mornings and evenings turn brisk. Imagine how that cold feels when you don’t have the security of housing. Around 10,000 people are facing homelessness this winter in the city. These thousands of people have a unique story of what brought them to their current situation.

That’s where you come in. For just a small portion of your time or a few dollars, you can change somebody’s life.

1. Spread the gift of warmth

Too often I have heard people around me not want to give a homeless person any money because “they’ll turn around and spend it on drugs.” To assume that over 10,000 people in the city of Atlanta are using hard drugs is not only absurd, but an excuse we often tell ourselves to feel better about not sparing a dollar.

You are under no obligation to give money to anyone, especially when you are not in a position to properly fund yourself. However, if you find yourself with a little extra cash, Wal-Mart is currently selling fleece blankets for $2.50. This much needed item can go a long way for someone. Now you know exactly what your money is going to.

2. Don’t be afraid to smile

Admit it – you avoid eye contact with the homeless people you pass on the way to class. The majority of the city has your same mindset. Ultimately, this mindset leads to the homeless being constantly ignored and shunned. Too often we forget that they are people too. Humanity thrives off the love and company of others. Remember that when you’re passing someone who’s homeless. Sometimes a wave, a smile, or a simple hello can go a long way.

3.  Distribute essential phone numbers

To the surprise of many, it is possible to maintain cell phone service and still be homeless. It is not uncommon for a homeless person to have a cell phone. The Obama administration made it possible for those living at a temporary shelter address to have access to a government phone. However, these cellphones are often very basic and do not have smartphone capabilities. This is why it is essential for the homeless to have phone numbers that provide them a path out of their situations. Compile a list of numbers and post them around the city. Here is just a start -

404-613-0412 Odyssey Villas – developing life skills to secure stable employment

404-486-2700 Salvation Army Red Shield Services – housing programs ranging from one night to a year

844-473-7364 Serenity House of Atlanta – long term transitional housing in order to get employment, GED, or college education.

404-892-3713 Atlanta Children’s Center – providing quality day care and education to homeless children

678-687-5357 Malachi’s Storehouse – offers free groceries one a month to people without documentation

404-817-7070 Hope Atlanta – Emergency housing for homeless families when there is no shelter

There also may be homeless people who have no idea that they can access a government phone through Safelink. Creating flyers about where to start in the process can positively impact the community.

4. Be a blessing in their lives

If you are feeling motivated to give back and want to spread some love along with your friends, creating “blessing bags” is one of the most thoughtful things you can do. Blessings bags are brown paper or plastic bags that have some of the essentials that someone might not have – deodorant, wet wipes toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, washcloths, handwarmers, small food items, gloves, and socks.

Gather a couple friends and hit up Dollar Tree with at least $10 in everyone’s hand. Assign each person an item and bring all the items back to a central location. Customize your bag by swapping items, decorating your bag, and leaving inspirational notes.

From personal experience, I made the event into a small party by ordering pizza and playing music. Not only is it a bonding experience, but an instant way to make someone else’s day. Keep a few in your car, bag, or wherever you can easily distribute it on the go.

5. Turn your words into action

There are so many opportunities to come face to face with the population that you pass by every day. Action Ministries gives you a monthly opportunity to play BINGO with homeless women and participate in them earning amazing prizes. Be a part of CHRIS 180’s weekly homeless outreach event. Feed the homeless with Atlanta Mission.

GSU, TUC Magazine, and The Beat ATL will be hosting a “Feed the Block” event in Hurt Park, November 12 at 12 pm. Stop by on your way to and from class to give back to the community we all love.

Come to recognize the humanity behind a population we talk down upon too often. The next time you turn your nose up at a homeless person, ask yourself “who are we as human beings to ignore the suffering of others?”

Lend a helping hand this season.