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|Steps to Individual Advocacy
|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
the same places--thats their turf. Notice their appearances and behaviors.
--quiet, loud, clean, dirty, polite, male, female,
polite, rude, old, young, white, black, thin, heavy, sober, alert, handicapped, busy,
--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?
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 dont 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
--Once youve earned someones 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 cant 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.
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.
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 .
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
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
"Have a Great
One! A Homeless Man's Story" by Laurie Anthony.