Helping the Homeless

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Updated: 7/27/2012 3:51 pm Published: 7/26/2012 4:31 pm

As the summer heat continues to torture us, it can sometimes make you mindful of the luxuries we have in our lives… air conditioning, a refrigerator with automatic ice-maker, a shower to cool off. Some of our fellow Oklahomans don’t have those luxuries. In the United States, hundreds of thousands of people are without permanent homes and often go to bed hungry and hot. If you want to make a difference in the life of even just one homeless person, there are several ways in which you can help… and you don't have to be a millionaire to do it. Carrie Little with Family & Children’s Services visited GDGC with details.

Many of us are uncomfortable approaching or talking to homeless people. Any suggestions?

Show respect – you probably don't know the circumstances in a person's life that could have lead to him becoming homeless. Do not assume that you do. Treat a homeless individual in the exact same, respectful manner that you would anyone else. Imagine how you would feel if you needed help, and then treat a homeless person accordingly.

Be kind – in the busy and hectic modern world, it can be so easy to just pass homeless people by on the street and ignore them without so much as a glance. Make a difference by behaving with kindness rather than indifference or disgust. If a homeless person asks you a question, smile and respond back with words or warmth or encouragement. This can do wonders for a homeless person's mentality.

There are lots of people on the street asking for money… should we open up our wallets?

Giving food or, on a hot day like this, a cold bottle of water is a better option. When you leave for work or for errands in the morning, simply take along a couple of extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a few granola bars or a few cold bottles of water. If you have vouchers for a free drink or sandwich that’s nearby, consider giving it to a homeless person you encounter. Tulsa Police say that it’s illegal to solicit for money in roadways, and you don’t always know how the money’s going to be used. So stick to the food and water.

There are a number of charities that serve the homeless. Perhaps our money would be better directed to them?

Family & Children’s Services and other organizations that serve the homeless appreciate and will put donations to good use…but you can also make an impact by giving your time. You could help make or serve meals at a soup kitchen, shelter or church that feeds the homeless. You could pack groceries and organize items for the food bank. Another easy thing you can do involves sample-size toiletries… like the ones that are in hotel rooms, or the small toothpaste and toothbrush your dentist gives you after a visit. Think about saving up a bag of those and donating them to a shelter. You really probably don’t need another 1-ounce bottle of shampoo in your bathroom closet – but that could really help a homeless person who doesn’t have ready access to basic personal care products.

Know that we have cooling stations around Tulsa as well. Tulsans who need shelter from the heat are urged to visit either of two cooling stations. One is at the Salvation Army's Center of Hope, 102 N. Denver Ave. The other is at the Tulsa County Social Services facility at 2401 W. Charles Page Blvd.

Family & Children’s Services provides a number of services, through its Homeless Outreach Team, to help stabilize the lives of homeless individuals with mental illnesses. The agency provides counseling, psychiatric care, substance abuse treatment and linkages to housing and other community resources.

Family & Children's Services
650 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74120
(918) 560-1128

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