Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Think you can’t help the homeless…


I just watched on Australian TV how horrendous the unemployment and homelessness is in America right now. Sure, maybe you’re afraid of needy people. They may seem like drowning people and you don’t want to be pulled under just because you reached out a hand. But many people who’ve fallen on hard times are not necessarily opportunists and give them an inch and that is in fact all they’ll take and look forward to being able to give something back. How do I know? I was homeless in my teens and intermittently through my 20s. So I pondered what each of us can do to get to know or constructively help those in these positions. Here’s some ideas :

Any person made homeless through eviction should be given a voucher for a camping store so they are least have a tent and bedding.

All homeless people should be sponsored for a free P.O Box to get mail

All homeless people should be provided with a facility to retrieve employment related phone messages through their most local library

If you run a radio program, feature homeless people, air their stories, their hopes and provide a contact people for those willing to give them opportunities.

People could leave ‘free to good home’ recyclables on park benches for homeless people to gather as they wished.

People with used musical instruments or art materials could leave them for artistically talented homeless people to use for busking so they didn’t have to ‘just beg’.

Those with room for a pet could offer to foster the pets of homeless people unable to house or look after them, with Sunday morning visits available on the front lawn.

Unwanted bicycles could be gathered so homeless people who can’t afford transport can use them to get around in seeking jobs.

Churches could run monthly Sunday after service auctions of donated goods with all proceeds to benefit services for those homeless in the area.

Whenever you stay in a hotel/motel, gather the excess bread rolls, butter, jam samples and leave them on a park bench on the street for the homeless to enjoy.

Whenever you fly and get free wash bags, combs, toothpaste, socks, earplugs, sleep masks, then you didn’t use them, leave them on a park bench next time you’re out walking.

If you see cheap picnic sets and picnic blankets at garage sales or charity shops, donate one to a homeless parent living in a car so they can at least take their kids for a picnic in the park.

If you have excess writing pads, pens, even pads of recycled paper, leave them for homeless people on park benches so they can write poetry, signs, letters, job seeker advertisements, skills lists, prioritize their thoughts, counsel themselves through journaling.

If your kids have 10 balls and only need 2, leave 8 in the park so homeless people can play ball.

If you have self help books, novels, kids books, books of affirmations, any books, leave them in a water proof bag on a park bench so homeless people can explore them, lift their spirits, may even adopt one as a valued possession, mental escape or solace.

All those freebie PR drink bottles… don’t want or need them? Then leave them on a park bench so a homeless person can fill them with water which is healthier and cost free compared to canned drinks.

Got a rucksack or wheel-able suitcase you don’t need. Leave them opened (so its clear there’s no bombs inside!) on a park bench so homeless people can take them to carry their possessions without a supermarket trolley.

Got reasonable hairdressing skills? Have your local church give you lawn space to offer free haircuts to homeless people once a month.

Got a second or third set of shaving equipment you didn’t need last birthday? More towels, soaps or handkerchiefs you already have excess of? Leave them on the local park bench for homeless people to find.

Got more constructive ideas? Feel free to post them in the comments!

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.