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Another Way                             
Individual  Advocacy   
Have a Great One!
A Homeless Man's 

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door.wmf (2678 bytes)People do want to help in some way; they just don’t know where to begin. The first step is to make the decision to act, to do something to help. After that, it’s just a matter of focusing your energies, strengths, and resources. Begin by reading newspaper and magazine articles about the homeless, listening to the news, and contacting organizations and request their brochures, pamphlets, and volunteer needs. Knowledgeable people are better equipped to make informed choices. A great deal of information can be found in the library, bookstores, as well as online.

     Advocacy, working to change policies and programs at the local, state, and federal levels is critical to ending homelessness. Individual advocacy is a commitment of one’s time and resources to help a specific homeless person.

How a Homeless Person Might Reacthndshak1.wmf (3862 bytes)   
  One of the most emotionally damaging aspects of homelessness is the lack of respect experienced by homeless people in their dealings with individuals and agencies. Trust is a very important issue to the homeless because they typically have lead lives that have been characterized by letdowns and disappointments.

The essence of trust is that one can be counted on to keep their commitments. Trust also develops when the homeless person feels like you accept their uniqueness, respect their ability to make decisions, and you communicate genuine concern for them.
Simply listening empathetically and intently to the individual can make a huge difference in how the individual perceives herself/himself. 
Treating the homeless nonjudgmental and with respect is a good place to begin building a relationship. If they see that you still have hope in them, they will begin to have hope in themselves.

It takes time for a relationship based on trust to develop. Respect each person’s boundaries and ways of relating. When you have developed rapport with a homeless individual, you can decide to what extent you want to and are able to help them. Explain to them that you would like to offer your assistance, but it is ultimately up to them. Your assistance may be as simple as offering to get them some clean clothes, or it may entail setting up a job interview for them.

Homeless people react differently to someone’s help. Sometimes a homeless person may respond defensively because they feel powerless, and may overreact to try to maintain some control over their situation by being angry and hostile before the other person could. Or they may have repressed their emotions so that when someone helps them, they just accept it numbly without showing appreciation.
A homeless person just wants to be recognized, not ignored. Just making eye contact, smiling or saying hello makes such a difference. Acknowledging one’s humanity is one small yet easy way to help the homeless.


Excerpted from   "Have a Great One! A Homeless Man's Story" by Laurie Anthony