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

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Steps to Individual Advocacy

arrowsgn.wmf (1878 bytes)Step 1  Observing
  Begin noticing the homeless people you see on the streets.
  Keep a journal about who you see, where and when you see them.
  Take it all in--after awhile you will see the same people at the same places--that’s their turf. Notice their appearances and behaviors.
Are they: 
--quiet, loud, clean, dirty, polite, male, female, polite, rude, old, young, white, black, thin, heavy, sober, alert, handicapped, busy, listless?
--panhandling, collecting cans, sleeping, drinking, standing, smiling, searching trash, smoking cigarettes, moving around, incoherently talking, singing, yelling, covered with blankets, pushing shopping carts, sleeping on cardboard, dressed warmly?    

Notice what feelings are stirred up inside you when you approach a homeless person.
--Are you fearful, disgusted, annoyed, or angry? Do you feel pity or sadness? 
--Do you cross the street to avoid him or her? Do you react differently to a man than a woman, or to someone who is old or young?
--Do you stop and give him or her change or talk to them? As you walk away, do you feel a sense of relief or a sense of guilt?  Do you think about it later?

Step 2   Rely on yourself
--Rely on your gut feeling and decide whom to approach, without jeopardizing your safety.
--Remember to talk to individuals only in public areas and don’t give out any personal information.
--Give some change to panhandlers and observe their responses. Stop and talk casually for a few moments, all the time mentally collecting data.
--Once you’ve earned someone’s trust, begin to ask questions without being too intrusive. Evaluate not only the neediness of each person, but also the potential. You have to have the time to develop a relationship with a homeless person, and this can be done in just a few moments a day.

Step 3   Ask Questions and Develop a Plan
--Where do you get your meals?  Do you have a favorite food?
--What clothes do you need that you can’t easily get?
--What do you like to read? Bring magazines, newspapers, and books.
--What kind of music do you like? Bring a small radio or cassette player and tapes. Do you play an instrument? A homeless person who plays an instrument might love getting a guitar, harmonica, or saxophone.

Step 4   A Further Commitment
--Some homeless individuals need help obtaining identification. Help write necessary letters, make phone calls, or fill out forms.
--Help may be needed hooking someone up to agencies that could help them. What benefits are they receiving or not receiving and are entitled to?
--Someone may need help with bus or subway fare, finding the location on a map, or calling and making appointments. Go with them if possible, as their advocate. In addition, they may have too many belongings to travel with (i.e. shopping cart) and ask you to store their items for them.
--Are there any health problems that need to be addressed? Where can these services be obtained? Health problems could include psychological needs as well. You can make necessary phone calls and help get this individual the necessary treatment. Help them get prescriptions filled and manage their dispensing schedule.
Step 5   Your Skills and Resources
What skills and connections do you have that might help this individual secure housing or employment? Are you in a position to help them financially or offer them a job? Even when someone secures housing, setting up housekeeping can be overwhelming and help would is appreciated in purchasing furniture, kitchen item, and linens as well as arranging for utilities, mail, trash, and keys.

Some Things You Can Do . . 

   Take someone out to eat--a self-serve deli, a cafe, vendor food, a restaurant, or buy gift certificates to restaurants or grocery stores. Pay for a room for at a hotel for a shower and a comfortable night’s sleep. Make a toiletry kit in a practical carrying case. Include band-aids, Tylenol, deodorant, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, tampons, lotion, hand cream, cologne, toothpaste, mouthwash, and "no rinse" soap.  
  Get tickets for cultural events. Buy subway tokens or a bus or metro pass. Give laundry detergent and change for the laundromat. Take someone to get a haircut or shave, hair color or perm. Purchase a sketchbook, markers, paints, colored pencils, spiral notebooks, pen, pencils, writing paper, envelopes, and stamps. 
  Buy needed clothes, especially cold weather items. Bring a blanket, quilt, sleeping bag, or pillow. Offer to pay for long distance phone calls on holidays so they can contact family or friends. Take someone to a shoe store to get a pair of properly fitting shoes. Buy a duffel bag, suitcase on wheels, backpack, fanny pack, or an umbrella.

When it is Not Possible to Help   
But also be careful, realizing that many of the homeless are addicted to drugs, alcohol or are mentally ill. Be cautious in associating with seriously mentally ill persons, chronic alcohol or drug abusers, overly aggressive (verbal or nonverbal) persons and anyone whom you do not feel comfortable with.  Whatever you do is important because you are making a contribution to making this world a better place! You are their support; you help them focus; you help keep them positive; you boost their self-esteem and confidence!
Excerpted from: "Have a Great One! A Homeless Man's Story"  by Laurie Anthony.WB01430_.gif (6251 bytes)