It can feel like the many issues in our communities and the world seem so big and overwhelming that it’s hard to imagine that you can do anything that will will help. When it comes to an issue like homelessness – that you see in real life everyday – there are actions that you can take right now.
I have always believed that little things add up to make a big difference. One of my big objectives for FeedTO is that it inspires other people to go out into their own community and do what they can. Together with my peers who are taking action on things like the environment, gun violence and bullying, we hope that people of all ages see what we are doing and say “I can do it too”. Your “it” might not be launching a campaign – your “it” is doing your thing and whatever that is is great. Maybe your “it” is about thinking of other people when you walk out the door and preparing to act on that compassion.
Here are five easy ways you can take action on homelessness:
Pack a few “care kits” in your car that includes things like toiletries, a scarf, gloves, hat, a granola bar, etc. This is something you could put together right now! If we simply keep some of those items in our car and have them handy, you will be able to make a difference when you see someone experiencing homelessness,
One awesome thing you can do is give someone something that they can be self-sufficient with. Buy a $5 or $10 gift cards (that’s enough to get a hot drink and some food) for a coffee or sandwich place and keep it in your wallet to give to someone you see. This way you will be helping someone get something to eat, as well as the opportunity to get out of the cold and sit inside a store or restaurant.
You often see people who need money on the street, but a lot of us don’t carry cash or change because we use cards for everything. Grab some change from your change jar the next time you’re heading downtown to give to someone or use it to buy them a coffee.
One of the best things you can do is acknowledge people. Have a simple conversation with someone experiencing homelessness. If you can’t do that, give a smile. Too often, we stigmatize and stereotype the homeless by looking away. Kindness and compassion always go a long way. Every person on the street has a story so if you have time, listen.
Organizations that provide services and support could always use more help (especially during these cold winter months). There are so many opportunities to volunteer and offer your time, energy and skills. For those of you who know me well, you know that right now, I’m talking about your gift. Volunteering with an organization that supports an issue that you’re passionate about checks off a couple boxes: you’re making a difference directly for the people that need it the most and you’ll meet and connect with other like-minded people that are volunteering. For an extra meaningful experience, look for opportunities to volunteer with friends or family and do it together.
Whether it’s money, food or warm clothes, organizations that support the most vulnerable in our communities are always grateful for being thought of. I’ve created a resource list of organizations service and support for the homeless in the Greater Toronto Area. Please check it out when you’re ready to lend a hand.
All five of these actions are unbelievably tangible and make an impact. I hope that on February 11th, when I’m hitting the streets for FeedTO, you’re doing something to create change in your own way and will continue it for the days after.