YOU can help END homelessness in 6 simple ways!
By Alicia Albl, Lutherwood Housing Advisor
Homelessness is a large and complicated social issue that has deep roots in our society. In fact, homelessness has been around for such a long time that many see it as ‘just the way it is’ - but it doesn’t have to be. Increased research and awareness has shown homelessness in a different light as it has been described as a public health emergency deserving of a crisis response. Recently, homelessness has also been considered to be a solvable issue and government and social service agencies across Canada, including Lutherwood, have boldly set out to END it.
In Waterloo Region we are already making many positive changes in how we assist and support individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness first hand. However, resolving such a large and complicated issue is something that will take an effort on all of our parts. There are many ways that you can support individuals experiencing homelessness and play a role in ending homelessness in our community.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Change your language from ‘homeless person’ to ‘person experiencing homelessness’. This puts the person first and focuses on a situation that a person is experiencing, removing homelessness as a stigmatized identity
- Make a point of saying ‘Hi’, smiling or having a conversation with someone who is experiencing homelessness. Often times, people who are experiencing homelessness are ignored; treated as a disgrace and like they don’t belong in our community. Acknowledging and forming some kind of connection, however small it may be, helps as it begins to change the attitude that people who experience homelessness aren’t somehow innately different or undeserving to an attitude that shows that they matter - reducing the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality.
- Prepare care packages including necessity items to be given out to people experiencing homelessness as this will help them to cope with daily survival while they figure out their next living situation.
- Volunteer your time at soup kitchens, food banks or local shelters.
- Consider donating funds to charities that support programs to end homelessness Hockey Helps the Homelessness, Raising the Roof or The Push for Change or to local food banks and shelters such as Safe Haven Youth Shelter.
- Become an advocate & help to lessen the stigma around homelessness. Educate yourself, your family and your community about the issue of homelessness and the factors that can lead to homelessness. Contrary to many assumptions, homelessness does not only happen to ‘bad’ or ‘dirty’ people who use drugs and make trouble. Homelessness is usually situational and can be caused by many factors such as a relationship breakdown, loss of job, or various health issues - the fact is that none of us is immune to experiencing homelessness. Remember: People experiencing homelessness want to get off the street and the sobering fact is that not one of us is immune to this risk – it could happen to anyone..