Many San Franciscans are well-aware that homelessness is an issue in our city. We pass people sleeping on the sidewalk on our way to work or ride BART with people experiencing homelessness, yet, many of us still don’t have a real idea how we can help, or what’s already being done.
While ending homelessness for good requires broad solutions including proper funding, programs tailored to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness and a group of dedicated people to implement these services, there are plenty of daily, small actions that any individual can take to help, too.
Here are our suggestions:
1. Be Kind
People experiencing homelessness are often stigmatized, and in many cases, criminalized. Not having the means to get a proper meal, shower or do laundry can result in a lot of shame, and by ignoring people experiencing homelessness on the streets, we only further their sense of disconnection from society at large.
Because of how difficult it can be to acknowledge an individual who is suffering, many of us tend to ignore someone when they ask for help. While you never have to give cash if that’s not something you’re comfortable with, simply acknowledging people experiencing homelessness with eye contact or a smile can go a long way. Be polite and try to engage as you can, and always be mindful of your personal safety and avoid taking unnecessary risks.
2. Educate yourself and others
According to the latest San Francisco Homelessness Point-in-Time Count and Survey, the top causes of homelessness are job loss, addiction, family conflict, eviction, divorce and illness – factors that are outside of an individual’s control. Generally, homelessness is not a choice. By educating yourself and others about circumstances that lead to homelessness, you will help stop the misconception that people choose to live on the streets.
3. Hand out toiletries, snacks or resource guides
Many people experiencing homelessness don’t have access to necessities like toiletries or healthy food. Carrying and handing them out is a tangible way you can help. Consider getting together with a group of friends during the day and offering kits that contain things we all need daily, such as packs of tissues, hand sanitizer, a tooth brush and toothpaste, deodorant, band aids, snacks or even a reusable water bottle. You can also carry information on local homelessness services and offer those to people who ask for or appear to need help.
4. Donate to an organization doing work to end homelessness
There are many amazing organization across the Bay Area working to effectively and efficiently address homelessness. Why are do we still see so many people on the street then? San Francisco’s housing crisis has exacerbated homelessness in recent years, and even the best of these organizations typically does not receive enough funding to meet the level of need in our City.
Since 1984, Larkin Street Youth Services has provided comprehensive services to thousands of young people experiencing homelessness every year, and this model works: Three out of four young people who complete our housing programs have a safe place to live when they leave, are working or in school and report overall physical and mental wellness.
Plus, half of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco first became homeless before the age of 25. Ending youth homelessness is an important step towards ending homelessness for all.
We rely on support from people like you to continue to provide services that help young people get off the street for good. While we do receive funding from public sources, it’s often restricted and doesn’t cover the essential education, employment and mental health services that help young people permanently break the cycle of homelessness.
Your generous contribution can help us ensure that young people experiencing homelessness have the same opportunities you’d want for yourselves or your children.