8 Ways to Truly Help the Homeless

Sometimes being approached by a homeless or hungry person is intimidating, as their needs often seem too overwhelming. Yet as the saying goes — treat others as you want to be treated — which includes dignity and respect. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help someone in need.

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1) BE PREPARED

Anticipate the opportunities you may have to engage with homeless people and be “salt and light.” Develop a game plan. In time, you might find that you are intentionally walking closer to the person on the sidewalk or merging into the left lane, just to ensure you have an encounter.

2) BE AWARE

The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills…the list goes on. Some are unable to care for themselves due to a physical disability, mental illness, or severe drug or alcohol addiction. These three characteristics alone reveal there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

3) LISTEN WELL

A polite conversation can go a long way. We all need the consistent love and encouragement of other human beings to help us make smart choices in our lives. Many of guests consistently communicate a desire to just be heard.

4. BE OK SAYING “NO”

One of the best things you can do is point those you meet to existing services and be okay saying “no” to their requests, which usually seem harmless and very practical. However, in most circumstances, by giving someone your spare change, take-out, or homemade cookies, you are actually keeping them in that broken and needy place longer.

5) PRAY

Ask God to bring them peace and encouragement to meet their physical and emotional needs to satisfy their spiritual hunger. Specifically, ask God what he would have you do in each situation.

6. ASK FOR HELP

In extreme weather, a stationary individual may be on the verge or hypothermia or heat stroke. If you are concerned, call 9-1-1. Likewise, if you are feeling scared for your safety, or believe the individual is in any kind of danger, don’t hesitate to call the police. Visalia Police Department offers a non-emergency line: (559) 734-8116

7. ENCOURAGE THE NEXT STEP

Every day the Mission provides a variety of services, including: meals, overnight shelter for men, women, children (boys 12 & under, girls 17 & under), and case management counseling. Ultimately, many individuals need to make a commitment to a residential, recovery program like our 12-month Life Change Academy. 

8. SUPPORT VISALIA RESCUE MISSION

The Mission is solely supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the less fortunate. It costs $1.92 to provide a meal, $11 to house an individual for the night, and $18.32 for one day of room, board, counseling, curriculum, and job-skills training in our Life Change Academy. We can’t provide any of those without your help. To give now, click HERE or call (559) 740-4178.

Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.