BY SUSAN SCHABACKER
Everyone needs some help at some point in their lives. Some need more support than others, and lots of people in Forsyth County need assistance with daily living. Being homeless often goes beyond just needing housing. Some need a handout, and others need a hand up.
The homeless may be in need of job assistance, counseling, or medical care. Or, they may just need food, drink, and toiletries. Life is not easy living on the streets, and neither is never knowing what tomorrow may bring if you lack resources and support.
Fortunately, there are noble and notable organizations locally to help support our homeless individuals and their families through donations and volunteer efforts. Want to help our homeless? Here’s how you can lend a hand and volunteer your time to helping their lives improve.
EVERYONE NEEDS TO EAT AND DRINK
It’s difficult to see anyone struggling to survive, sifting through the trashcans on the streets and picking things up from the ground, but don’t give them money. Instead, offer healthy snacks, drinks, or even an inexpensive hot meal from a local restaurant.
Snacks can be lifesavers and are hard to come by if you’re homeless. They help sustain you throughout the day and are especially important for those with blood sugar issues. A healthy snack can make all the difference. Instead of giving the homeless potato chips or candy bars, nab a bag of clementines that have no seeds and are easy to peel, not to mention delicious and nutritious. Other portable fruits like apples and bananas are good options, too. If you can wash the apples ahead of time to remove dirt, bacteria, or pesticides, that’s even better since it’s hard for the homeless to access a sink. Individually wrapped granola bars, dried fruit, and nuts are a good idea, too, and are lightweight to carry around.
Water bottles are always a good idea! Pop some in your tote for when you’re out and about. You never know when you’ll run into someone in need, so get prepared with provisions to offer them. Get in the habit of giving.
Unused toiletries from your hotel stays? Collect them and bring them to your local homeless shelter(s). Here is a checklist of toiletries (mini, travel-sized versions are often best) and other handy items you can give out or donate.
Small tissue packets
Feminine hygiene products
Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss
Soap and body wash
Combs and brushes
Notepads and pens
New bedding (e.g., sheets, blankets, throws, quilts, pillows and pillowcases)
Clothing (Including underwear, socks and baby clothes)
Toys and games (Light up the little ones’ lives. Bored with your board games? Donate them!)
Fruit juice and seltzer
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Though used items can be helpful, new is always best. Don’t have a big budget? Head to your local dollar store. Just $5 worth could help five peoples’ lives. Tight on money? Save your next meal out and get some necessities for the homeless, nothing fancy or too expensive. When it comes to surviving the streets, the basics and essentials are best.
Some have money; others have time. Even with just a little bit of time, you can help the homeless. Volunteer to serve a meal at your local soup kitchen, read books to kids and/or bring in a therapy dog to brighten their day. Got musical talent? Bring in your instrument of choice and sing some songs to lift spirits and put a smile on their faces. Prefer to do your own thing? Plan and organize a hygiene-for-the-homeless drive. Collect and distribute toiletries and other personal care items or food and beverages.
You don’t have to be rich or have oodles of time to help the homeless. The important thing is that you make an effort to reach out to support others’ lives. All that good giving will come back to you in unexpected ways, and you will always feel good when helping others.