Community Activism: Helping the Homeless

Date: 06/10/2014

By Melissa Murphy
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in….”
 -Holy Bible, Matthew 25:35 (NIV)
 According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, upwards of 13% of people in the U.S live in poverty. Of that 13%, about two-thirds are one crisis away from homelessness and about a third already have no place to call home. And, worse yet, there are a growing number of children in the homeless population.
Understanding Homelessness
For a community to become aware of the problems it faces, a better understanding of those problems is needed. Of the several categories that homeless people fall into, the most visible are the chronically homeless – those who have no set dwelling place for extended periods of time.  In general, the chronically homeless have little or no stable means of physical or emotional support such as family and friends. To make matters worse, a large percentage of homeless people struggle with addiction issues and many suffer from mental illness. Many are victims of domestic violence, veterans, and ex-convicts, but all of them are human beings who, on a daily basis, experience the frustration of wondering how, or if, they will survive.
Community Involvement
Because people often do not understand the needs and circumstances surrounding homelessness, they frequently react in a variety of ways. They may feel disgusted, repulsed, angry, or fearful. Since a growing number of communities are affected by the complexities of this emergent population, it helps to become educated about homelessness and learn to respond in ways that are more positive, compassionate, and beneficial. Here are a few things that people can do to impact their communities:
        "You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." - John Bunyan
The problem of chronic homelessness is quickly creeping into many communities that were previously unaffected and community involvement is becoming more important in addressing homelessness, as well as many other social issues. There are many things people can do to meet the priority needs of those that are homeless, but perhaps the most exciting aspect of a caring community that becomes involved is the prospect that preventative measures can be implemented to help reduce the incidence of homelessness in the future. Through understanding, compassion, and hard work, communities can take a more proactive stance to help the homeless in their neighborhoods.
Glasser, I. (1994). Homelessness in a global perspective. New York.
Institute for children and poverty. (2001). A shelter is not a home-Or is it?
Johnson, A.G. (2000). The Blackwell dictionary of sociology.   Massachusetts: Blackwell publishing.