3.5 Simple Ways to Help the Homeless

man in black long sleeve shirt sitting on floor
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Walking down the sidewalk, a homeless person approaches and here comes the question: Spare some change? I know, you’d rather make some change, of the social kind. Because you’re not sure what that spare change is gonna go for. But how can you help homeless people right now?

Homelessness is a long word for an overwhelming problem, with no solution in sight. Politicians and advocates battle endlessly over policy. But what can you do right now? 

Take heart, because there are some simple ways you can help homeless people in your community.

Homeless Helper #1: Everybody Needs Socks

white socks on white paper
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Imagine you only have one pair of socks, no other pair to wear, no place to wash them — or yourself. Every single day. What will those socks be like after one week? After two weeks?

Between finding shelter, food, and whatever other help they can get, the homeless are on their feet a lot. It’s no wonder socks are the item most requested by homeless people.

So step one is get a bunch of new socks. Then, decide if you are going to hand them out, or if you will take them to a shelter or other organization that helps the homeless.

If you are comfortable with giving them out yourself, you will see first hand how much this simple gift means.

Homeless Helper #2: Share Your To-Go Food

tasty sandwich with crispy baguette and fresh tomatoes with cheese
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Going to a restaurant downtown, or another area where there’s a lot of homeless folks? If you get a to-go box at the end of the meal, ask them to include some plastic utensils.

If you’re able to be even more generous, order some extra appetizers, or even an entree to give away.

Then, if you happen upon a solitary homeless person as you walk away from the restaurant, you can offer them the to-go box. 

I can understand if you might be intimidated. But I worked with homeless persons full time for a few years, and most of them were polite and kind. So don’t be scared, you can even bring some friends with you. You’ll find it’s easy to give the food away, and the meal will definitely be appreciated.

Homeless Helper #3: Serve at a Food Bank or Dining Hall

wheat bread sandwich
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Every weekday morning, a woman named Lioba makes delicious sandwiches. Then she brings them to a Catholic Worker shelter in San Bruno, California, that serves food to the homeless. 

Lioba makes a big bundle of sandwiches, each one perfectly wrapped in wax paper. The ingredients are plain: slices of wheat or white bread, packaged bologna, slice of American cheese, a little mustard.

Even so, these sandwiches are prized by the lucky people who get to eat them. They will tell you Lioba makes the best sandwiches in the world.

Somewhere near where you live, there is a place that serves meals or a food bank that gives groceries to the homeless. Once you find it, you can find a way to help just like Lioba did. 

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Find out what items are needed. Go get them
  • Offer to make sandwiches
  • Pick up donations from markets and restaurants
  • Deliver meals to people 

#3.5: Don’t Wait …

To get this 3.5 up to a full 4, we need one thing: you.

Lioba the Sandwich Lady is moving away and retiring to spend more time with her grandchildren. So there’s a spot wide open for you.

Take that first step and reach out. You can find a Catholic Worker house near you here.