The homeless have problems just like you and me: employment, health issues, disabilities, domestic violence. They just don’t have a roof over their heads.
Homeless people, families enter food pantries very quietly. They’ve lost their voices. The goal is to melt into the background, get food, and disappear.
There’s an exception to the voicelessness – when the person communicates with beings unknown to the rest of us. One shopper I know has been in another world since before I began working in the pantry in 2005. He communicates in a high, shrill, unknown tongue which I cannot describe. His shrill vowels are punctuated with hard, sharp whistles, clicks, squeaks.
We can all help homeless people in some way. Each of us has talents and skills which can be useful.
DONATE. Homeless people carry their kitchens in their pockets . So much food which we take for granted is just not helpful. Important in the homeless diet is peanut butter and crackers in individually wrapped packages, cereal in self-serve packaging. Fruits and vegetables which can be eaten raw, milk and/or fruit juice in individual containers. Donate these items throughout the year by regularly giving the food to a food pantry in your area which is homlesss friendly.
VOLUNTEER. Pantries everywhere need an extra set of hands to answer mail, drive a truck, serve food, clean up at closing time, send press releases, hold food drives, stock and straighten shelves, deliver food to the home bound.
CLEAN OUT YOUR CLOSETS. Donate clothing, bedding, books, and other gently used items to places where the homeless will have access to them.
SHARE. Do you or someone you know have a garden? Donate the excess to a homeless friendly pantry in your area. When your garden tomatoes get to be too plentiful, there are those in your area who need the food.
PUSH THE ENVELOPE. Contact elected officials about homeless issues in your area. Encourage them to make ending homelessness important in your community.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Returning veterans have special needs. For one thing, they begin separation from the military homeless.
FIND A JOB. Encourage your church or community to hire a homeless person. Many homeless want to work, have skills, but have trouble finding regular employment.
DO YOU HAVE A SKILL TO SHARE? Contact a local shelter and offer to give classes.
For a time, one of our most trusted volunteer/shoppers was homeless. His partner, Nancy, died and her children didn’t want him in the house they had lived in together for many years. He fought her children for a year with a lawyer, made several trips to court, the whole enchilada.
He finally moved out and ended up homeless for a time. He eventually got housing through a homeless veterans program. I helped him move his clothes and things over to his new apartment in Saugerties.
Homelessness cannot be generalized. Each homeless person is a special personality and has a special situation which s/he deals with. So here’s my rule about homeless people:
IF YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON, YOU’VE SEEN ONE HOMELESS PERSON.
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BOOK UPDATE: The new hunger book is going to be out soon. The publisher assures me that we’re going to see the book within a month! Hurrah!
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