About Helping People Who Are Experiencing Homelessness
- How can I help a person experiencing homelessness?
- What should I do when someone who appears to be hungry and experiencing homelessness asks for money?
- What services are available for people experiencing homelessness in downtown Los Angeles?
- How can I know if an organization asking for money to help the homeless is legitimate?
- What are the advantages of faith-based services?
1. How can I help a person experiencing homelessness?
1. Give them food, coupons, or gift certificates, or refer them to a local social service agency.
If a person is hungry, offer him/her food, coupons, or gift certificates to nearby restaurants or grocery stores. Or refer him/her to an agency that can provide food and shelter such as a local soup kitchen. Never give out cash. The money you give to “help” that person could be used to buy drugs or alcohol instead.
2. Talk to them with respect.
Taking time to talk with someone experiencing homelessness in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of dignity. If you can, spend time building a friendship with them — such as talking together while sharing a meal. Experiencing homelessness can be very isolating, discouraging, and embarrassing. These men and women need the consistent love and encouragement of friends to help them make healthy choices for their lives.
3. Recognize that people experiencing homelessness (and their problems) are not all the same.
The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, or someone who is lacking job skills . . . sadly, the possibilities are endless. Encourage the person you meet to get help through a mission, but remember that ultimately it must be their decision. Rescue missions offer immediate food and shelter. Many, like URM, offer long-term rehabilitation programs that help deal with the root causes of homelessness.
4. Support ministries like Union Rescue Mission through your donations.
Most missions receive little or no government funding. Their source of support comes from caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with those in need.
Donations of food, clothing, and personal items (such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, combs, diapers, toys, etc.) are always needed and greatly appreciated.
You can make an online donation or donate over the phone by calling us at 1-888-77-THE WAY HOME (888-778-4392).
5. Volunteer your time at a mission.
Volunteering not only helps support the work of the ministry, but also gives you the opportunity to get to know the people in need. Many of our volunteers tell us they feel that their lives have changed as much as the lives of the people they are working with!
6. Pray for people who are struggling or experiencing homelessness in your community.
Your prayers are a source of strength and hope to men and women who are struggling with homelessness. Your prayers are also appreciated on behalf of the guests, residents, and staff here at Union Rescue Mission.
2. What should I do when someone who appears to be hungry and experiencing homelessness asks for money?
Never give money to a person who is begging. Cocaine and other illegal drugs can be purchased on the streets today for less than $5. The money you give to “help” that person could very easily be used to buy drugs or alcohol instead.
If a person is hungry, give him/her food, coupons, or gift certificates to nearby restaurants or grocery stores. Or refer him/her to a local agency that can provide food and shelter.
The best thing to do is to encourage someone to come to a local homeless social service agency — a place like Union Rescue Mission. Not only will we give them a meal and a bed, but we can also provide them with the services and support they need to get off the streets for good.
3. What services are available for people experiencing homelessness in downtown Los Angeles?
Many services are available through private and public organizations, including long- and short-term shelter, transitional housing, counseling, medical and dental care, vision services, job training and placement, substance abuse programs, mental health services, and transportation.
However, getting the right help at the moment it is needed most can be extremely difficult. Navigating the maze of services and agencies can be overwhelming. Meanwhile, the needs of people experiencing homelessness continue to exceed available help year after year. That’s why Union Rescue Mission is here to help these precious men, women, and children in need.
4. How can I know if an organization asking for money to help those experiencing homelessness is legitimate?
Begin by finding out if they are members of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) as is Union Rescue Mission. The also gives information about charity organizations. Non-profit charity online databases can also be good resources for locating the legitimacy of a 501(c)(3).
Then, go visit them. See for yourself what they are doing, who they are helping, how funds are being used, and if they are really making a difference. We encourage everyone to come visit us here at URM. We want you to see the great need here in our community, and the tremendous progress we are making together.
5. What are the advantages of faith-based services?
At Union Rescue Mission, we believe God is our redeemer — the restorer of all who are lost. From our experience, lasting and sustainable change comes from within. That’s why we address the whole person — body, mind, and spirit.
When men and women turn their lives over to God, they hand over every moment of shame and all the tears they’ve cried. All the broken promises and dashed dreams. All their painful scars and past traumas. With God’s help, there is healing, hope, and — ultimately — new life.