During the holidays, we are often reminded of what truly matters – family, friends and the warmth and security of home. Holiday movies like the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” or more recently “The Grinch” reinforce the idea that home is where the heart is.
During this season, when you might be feeling extra grateful for the comforts of home, you may also find yourself noticing people who are homeless and wondering how you can help. We encourage you to take that feeling and turn it into action.
Talk to Your Children About Homelessness
Kids are keen observers. Whenever we stop at an intersection and encounter someone asking for help, it’s a teaching moment. For instance, you might use the opportunity to start a conversation about how people become homeless, as younger children might not be able to conceive how such a thing could be possible. (Even as adults, we might not be able to imagine how we might cope with such dire circumstances.)
You might also talk about some of the misconceptions we have about homelessness. After all, if you don’t know anyone who has dealt with the problem, it’s difficult to understand the complexities that surround the experience. It’s also easy to assume someone asking for help is homeless, when they may be struggling with other factors—even if they have a place to call home.
Finally, you might want to have a conversation about the best way to provide help. There are many ways to take action, some of which can be very engaging for children.
Make Giving Part of Your Holiday Traditions
There are many ways to give and help improve the lives of people who are homeless. Start here by learning what people experiencing homelessness need most.
Some people choose to give by volunteering or donating to organizations that help people experiencing homelessness. Here is a directory of homeless shelters as well as soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks in your area.
You can even make giving a family affair. For instance, do you struggle finding gifts for loved ones who have everything they need? Consider making a donation on their behalf to one of the organizations below. You might also host a family food drive and bring the goods to an organization in need.
A fairly common idea is to bring the family to volunteer over the holidays. While it’s a nice thought, you might be surprised to know that these organizations are often burdened by the rush of holiday volunteers. What’s more, the pandemic has changed the way that many shelters work with volunteers. Most organizations will post information on what kind of volunteering they find most helpful. If you do find an organization that takes volunteers, consider making the commitment now to volunteer after the holidays, when help is far more scarce.
In the Twin Cities, there are many organizations on the front lines of homelessness, including Guild. With some quick research, you can find an organization whose mission you feel passionate about.
Above All, Gratitude
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, or how you choose to help those in need, remember to practice gratitude. Sometimes it’s easy to dwell on the difficult situations our communities face (and there are many). But that doesn’t mean we should feel guilty for our blessings. Being thankful and truly enjoying what we have is a foundation for a life of giving.