Helping the homeless in NYC this winter

“Baby it’s cold outside”  Doesn’t really sound so cute to a homeless person in NYC.  I get “Frangry” this time of year.  You may have heard of “Hangry” when your hungry and it makes you angry.  Well, in my version it’s Freezing and it really makes me angry.  I know I was meant to live on a beach somewhere (almost anywhere) that’s warm.  But as bad as I feel for myself if my gloves aren’t the best or I wore the wrong choice of coat, how about those New Yorkers who don’t have a roof over their heads to run home to?


Here’s some good info I learned and a link to the article on the Coalition for the Homeless website.



Another idea I had, was as our family gathers this year, for celebrations, I”m asking everyone to bring a little extra (see list below) and I’m packing a couple of backpacks up to give to those I see in my daily travels.

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Here’s the list I made up:

Fleece Blanket: 

You may have an extra at home or pick one up.  Or if you want to have something to give out that really helps, how about ordering Emergency Mylar Blankets that you can easily carry and give out when you see someone struggling?

Water bottles: 

Don’t know about you, but I have too many! Instead of throwing them away, how about they go to someone who could use them?

Granola bars or cereal bars: 

I’ll just get some extra when I order some for my son at college.  I’d avoid the fiber ones, because they can be too much and the last thing a person on the street needs is a stomach ache.

Gift certificates to fast food: 

I love this idea because of many homeless people like fast food.  I know there are so many arguments for why not to eat it, but this comes down to helping in whatever way we can and not putting our own judgments on it.

Hand wipes or sanitizer bottle: 

Being clean and cutting down on germs can keep a person healthier and feeling better about themselves all at once.

MaxiPads:  

OMG as I woman I can’t even imagine.

Toothbrush and toothpaste: 

So easy to pick this up at your local store or add to your Amazon cart a travel dental kit.

Nail Clippers: 

Why do I have so many in my house?  This is a great use of some of my extras!

Band-Aids:  

Here’s a pack of 100 Bandages that will be plenty for your family and some to share.

Chapstick: 

Again why do I have so many in my house!

Comb or small brush: 

You may have extras of these.  I don’t, so I picked one up here.

Mints, cough drops or gum: 

I think the cough drops are the most useful. I’m just not a fan of gum and mints.

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I”m happy to make a more extensive list if anyone is interested.  I used to work for inner city missions and have some experience with homelessness. 

Here are 4 tips for interacting with people on the streets:

1. Each person you encounter is a PERSON.  Try not to lump them into a category in your head “Homeless people”  

2. Because each person is an individual they will all have different reactions to you, ranging from appreciative to angry.  Don’t take personal any adverse reactions, just move on to someone you feel you can connect with or wants what you have to give.

3. Respect the space of the person.  Not having much sometimes strips a person of pride.  So please respect them and the few possessions they may have.  It may not look like much to you, but it may be all they have in the world.

4. Respect yourself also.  You are trying to help someone and that is a great thing.  Realize that the people you will meet are survivors and in order to survive they may try to get whatever they can from you.  Be careful of your personal possessions, your generous heart (know what you are giving that day and do not get guilted into giving more than you are prepared to - you can always come back another day) and your time (when it’s time to leave, just say something like, “It was so nice speaking with you today, I wish you well and perhaps we will meet again.”  Don’t overpromise.

My personal opinion is that it’s harder after the holidays for the people we pass each day.  Many New Yorkers have moved on from the feeling of generosity that we share during the holidays and are now into New Year’s goals of saving money and losing 10 lbs.  I’m going to work to develop a habit this January of each time I’m tempted to be “Frangry” to take out of my pocket an item I have acquired that would be helpful to someone less fortunate and give it away.  I think that’s going to be good for everyone.  What’s your triumph or biggest challenge with helping those in need?


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