What Are Your Ideas?

by NWH Admin

As you participate in the Annual Night with the Homeless, we’re offering a lot of ideas to help you participate.

We bet you’re even more innovative, creative and resourceful than we are.  What ideas can you come up with?

  • What would you try if you knew it would succeed?  
  • What could your church, business, neighborhood or family do as a project together?
  • What’s one simple thing that you could do?
  • What relational gift could you give a homeless person — not just meeting their physical need, but also helping them feel seen, loved and listened to?

Share some ideas in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Ten Myths About Homelessness

by NWH Admin

Challenge Your Thinking

What are your assumptions about homelessness?  Like most issues, there’s far more to homelessness than the stereotype.

  1. Most homeless people are middle-aged men.
    For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. The face of homelessness is changing. In fact, the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are women and families with children.
  2. Homeless people need to “just get a job”.
    Getting a job is a challenge for most people in these days, and incredibly difficult for a homeless person.  Most lack clean clothes, showers, transportation, a permanent address and phone number.  Others have a criminal past, learning disabilities and lack of education that holds them down.  Even if they find work, their low income often cannot sustain them.
  3. Homeless people are dangerous.
    Homelessness is often associated with drugs, alcohol, violence and crime.  So yes, life on the streets can be perilous for homeless men and women.  But very few crimes are committed by homeless people against those of us who try to help them.  At New Life Evangelistic Center, the attitude we see most often from homeless men and women is gratitude.
  4. Homeless people are lazy.
    Surviving on the street takes more work than we realize.  Homeless men and women are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and sick.  Their minds, hearts and bodies are exhausted.  Though help is available, they may have no idea where to begin navigating the maze of social service agencies and bureaucracy.  With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep.  And they do this while lugging their precious few possessions along with them in a bag or backpack.  It is not a life of ease.
  5. People are homeless by choice.
    No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless.  People lose jobs and then housing.  Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence.  Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life.  Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Yes, poor choices can contribute to homelessness.  But outside circumstances strongly influence those choices.
  6. If homeless people wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it.
    Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible.  Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes.  Often, things like legal issues, criminal history, mental illness, physical and emotional health hinder progress even more.
  7. Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.
    Food and shelter are essentials for life.  By offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need.  Then we’re able to offer them something more through our recovery programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills and job training.
  8. If we provide sufficient affordable housing, homelessness will end.
    Putting a roof over the head of a deeply hurting person will not heal emotional wounds, break addiction, create relational stability or establish healthy life skills.  Housing can help people who are homeless due to poverty.  But it can be a shallow and temporary solution for the many people who are homeless because they are unable to function in a “normal” life.
  9. Homelessness will never happen to me.
    Talk to the hundreds of homeless men and women we serve each day and they’ll tell you that they never intended or expected to become homeless.  They’ve had solid jobs, houses and families.  But at some point, life fell apart.  They are desperate for a way back home.
  10. Homelessness will never end.
    Many U.S. cities have established ambitious goals with 10-year plans to end homelessness.  While these plans to provide housing and better centralized services to homeless people are important in reducing the scope and duration of homelessness, they will not completely eliminate it everywhere for all time.  But homelessness does end—one life at a time.  With your help, we continue to restore the lives of hurting men, women and children every day.

Ten Questions You Can Ask a Homeless Person

by NWH Admin

Talk to a homeless person.  Here are 10 conversation starters.

  1. What’s Your Name?
    Treat the person as you would anyone else.  Introduce yourself and learn his/her name.
  2. Are You Homeless?
    Don’t automatically assume that a panhandler or person sitting on the sidewalk is homeless.  They may have a place to stay, but choose to panhandle due to lack of finances.  Even if they’re not homeless, they could have a significant need.
  3. Where Are You From?
    A natural bridge into learning someone’s story is to find out where they’re from, where they’ve been, how they got here and how long they’ve lived in the area.  If they are new to the area, you might be able to give them helpful information about resources they could use.
  4. What Do You Need Most Right Now?
    The best way to help is to find the point of greatest need.  Is it food?  Shelter?  Sickness?  Transportation?  Clothing?  Addiction treatment?
  5. Can I Buy You Something To Eat Or Drink?
    Offer to buy a meal or a cup of coffee and eat together.  A meal can ease the flow of conversation.
  6. How Did You Become Homeless?
    The answers will vary widely.  Be prepared to hear some painful stories.
  7. How Do You Survive?
    You might be surprised to find out where people sleep, how they make money and where they get food.
  8. What Would You Want Other People To Know About You?
    A question like this gives the opportunity to go deeper.
  9. What Do You Hope For Your Future?
    Homeless men and women are often short on hope.  Help them envision a brighter future for themselves.
  10. If You Could Have Three Wishes, What Would They Be?
    This is a classic question used by Mark Horvath in his InvisiblePeople.tv interviews.  Watch a few of his videos to see how easy it is to talk to a homeless man or woman.

There are plenty of other good questions and conversation starters out there.  What ones would you add?

Ten Tips for a Successfull Collection Drive

by NWH Admin

Holding a collection drive or fundraising event might seem overwhelming.  Here are a few tips that can help make it easier, fun and successful.

  1. Keep It Simple
    Focus on just one type of item to collect.  Instead of a full-fledged clothing drive, collect just socks.  Instead of a food drive, collect just canned vegetables.  This will help keep your messaging simple.  People who want to participate won’t have to hesitate because of a tough decision about — or having to remember — what to purchase.  Of course, check with New Life Evangelistic Center ahead of time about what items they need.
  2. Make It Easy
    People are more likely to help if the action is relatively quick, convenient and easy to do.  They may not have time to purchase items from a store, so allow them to simply donate money — you’ll do the shopping for them.  Provide pre-addressed, pre-stamped giving envelopes that make it easy for them to drop a check in the mail.  Send an email that allows them to donate online at www.newlifeevangelisticcenter.org right away.
  3. Don’t Go Solo
    Chances are, you’re interested in doing a collection drive because you love managing projects or you love motivating people.  Whichever type you are, find someone with the other strength to help you.  Your project will have greater success if you have a good up-front cheerleader persona and someone who loves checklists making sure the details happen.  You’ll likely have more fun and success if you don’t try to do it alone.
  4. Use The Power Of Friend Multiplication
    People are more likely to give to a fundraiser not because there is a need, but because a friend asked them to give.  Focus your advertising on items that challenge / empower people to invite their friends.  Instead of asking people to donate a can of food, ask them to ask 10 friends to donate a can of food.  That puts the power of multiplication to work.  Motivate participation by rewarding the top influencers who got the most friends to participate.
  5. Ask For Sponsorships
    Ask local businesses to help out.  They can be a collection site.  They can offer discounts on the food or clothing items you’re asking people to collect.  They can provide coffee or food for your volunteers.  They can donate prize items for your top influencers.  Offer the business something in return, like public mention or logo placement on your advertising materials.
  6. Craft Your Sales Pitch
    Before you ask for participation, have your pitch well-rehearsed.  This can be a helpful formula:A – Grab their ATTENTION. (There’s a crisis in healthcare!)
    I – Add INTEREST. (50% of kids will get cancer.)
    D – Stimulate DESIRE. (But we’ve found a cure.)
    A – Call to ACTION. (If we have your help, we’ll get the cure much faster.)
  7. Talk About Life Change
    You’re not asking people to donate an item, you’re asking them to change a life.  Phrase your language that way.  “Would you help us give hope to a homeless man or woman?  Your donation of $10.00 will buy 10 pair of socks.  That’s 10 opportunities for us to meet and talk with a person who is hurting and looking for a way back home.”
  8. Take It Online
    People expect to be able to interact with you online.  These options are easier than ever and completely free.  Set up a free website or blog using Blogger and WordPress.  Create donation badge through Network for Good.  Upload a video to YouTube.  Share photos on Flickr.  Make all your content easy for people to share on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Overwhelmed by the techy stuff?  Recruit a teenager to set things up for you.
  9. Make It Hands-On
    Your goal in the collection drive should be bigger than getting people to donate.  Get them to care about the cause.  One church collected thousands of pounds of food, then asked all the participants to help load it into eight semi-trucks.  The task could have been done faster with forklifts.  But nothing could beat the emotional impact of hundreds of people forming a line and passing food boxes across the parking lot.  As they touched each box, they knew it would go to feed a family in need.  There’s something powerful and tangible about hands-on participation.
  10. Celebrate
    From the start of your planning, include ideas of how you’ll wrap things up.  Throw a party for volunteers and donors.  Collect e-mail and postal addresses along the way so you can properly thank all your champions.  When you drop off your donated items to the charity, take lots of photos and video to upload to the web.  People love to see the connection between their donation and the people it will benefit.  The better you thank and inspire your participants this time, the more likely they will be to help out in the future.

Ten Causes of Homelessness

by NWH Admin

Break the Stereotype

It’s easy to blame homeless men and women for getting themselves into their predicament.  It’s convenient to think of them in a stereotype of lazy, dirty and sub-human.  A closer look reveals the many facets, causes and complexities behind homelessness.

  1. Addiction
    Probably the most common stereotype of chronically homeless people is that they are drug and alcohol addicts — with good reason.  68% of U.S. cities report that addiction is their single largest cause of homelessness.* “Housing First” initiatives are well intentioned, but can be short-sighted. A formerly homeless addict is likely to return to homelessness unless they deal with the addiction.  Treatment programs are needed that treat the root causes of addiction and help men and women find a way back home.
    (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Substance Abuse.)
  2. Domestic Violence
    Nationally, 50% of homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.* When a woman is abused, she faces a crisis of safety.  If she stays in the home, she’ll be beaten again.  If she leaves, she’ll have little means of support.  Either choice is a tremendous risk.  Choosing homelessness over abuse is both a brave and frightening decision.
    (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Domestic Violence.)
  3. Mental Illness
    6% of the American population suffers from mental illness.  In the homeless population, that number jumps to 20-25%.* Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management.  Without assistance, these men and women have little chance of gaining stability.
    (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Mental Illness.)
  4. Job Loss and Underemployment
    The current downturn in the economy has many Americans barely getting by financially.  Many are underemployed at wages that can’t sustain them.  Layoffs and job cuts leave individuals and families in desperate circumstances.  Unemployment benefits and savings run out, leaving people homeless who never thought it could happen to them.
    (See: National Coalition for the Homeless – Employment.)
  5. Foreclosure
    Even people who have jobs are finding themselves upside down with their mortgages.  From 2008 to 2009, foreclosures jumped by 32%.  A 2009 survey estimates that as many as 10% of people seeking help from homeless organizations do so due to foreclosure.* (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Foreclosure.)
  6. Post-Traumatic Stress
    One any given night, as many as 200,000 military veterans sleep on the street.* the percentage of veterans with post-traumatic stress is growing among those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Adapting to “normal life” back in the U.S. is proving to be extremely difficult for the men and women who have served us.  Unable to cope, some choose to leave homes, loved ones and jobs behind for homelessness and/or addiction.  (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – Veterans.)
  7. Throw Away Teens
    Homeless teens often become so due to family conflicts.  They’re kicked out or choose to run away over issues of sexual orientation, teen pregnancy, physical abuse or drug addiction.  20% of homeless teens identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) compared to 10% in the general population.  Over 58% of these teens have been sexually abused.  62% are likely to commit suicide.* (*Source: National Coalition for the Homeless – LGBT.)
  8. Relational Brokenness
    A homeless person is most often a deeply hurting person.  By the time they come to a homelessness organization for help, they’ve burned through every supportive relationship possible.  Friends and family are no longer able or willing to help, leaving the homeless man or woman very much alone.  What relationships they have are usually predatory.  In a sense, their situation is less about homelessness and more about unwantedness.  A significant barrier to recovery often lies in the ability to restore trust and maintain healthy relationships.
  9. Grief
    It is not uncommon to discover that the men and women in the New Life Evangelistic Center programs are burdened by grief.  Unable to deal with the death of a loved one or other significant trauma, they numb their pain in addiction.  Addiction and apathy lead to the loss of job and home.  They simply stop caring if they live or die.  Grief becomes a roadblock to living.
  10. Despair
    “Once you get down this low, it’s hard to get back up,” we often hear homeless men and women say.  The longer they are homeless, the more difficult it becomes to combat the lies they hear in their heads.  They believe there’s no way out.  They don’t deserve another chance.  They’ll never break free from addiction.  They’ll always be a failure.  More than anything, these men and women need hope.