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 Things You Can Donate

by NWH Admin
  1. Your Car, Truck or Bus
    Many non-profits have vehicle donation programs which support their work. New Life Evangelistic Center accepts vehicle donations at 1411 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri. Donate your old vehicle, receive tax deduction benefits and enjoy knowing that you’re helping people in need.
  2. Your Time
    Volunteer to help serve meals, answer phones, prepare mailings, teach job skills, tutor in math or writing, clean facilities or sort donated food / clothing. Many other volunteer opportunities are available. Call Dulce at (314) 881-3218 for more information.
  3. Fresh Meat and Produce
    New Life Evangelistic Center hands out sandwiches daily and also serves meals on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Homeless organizations like us that serve food are constantly in need of fresh meat, produce, bread and dairy products to feed hungry men, women and children.
  4. Non-Perishable Food
    Non-perishable food items are great for their ability to be stored until needed. Organizations that serve a lot of food especially benefit from bulk quantities and larger (#10) size cans of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Clothes
    Chances are, your closet could use a good cleaning. Donate clothes that are still in good condition to a local shelter. New socks and undergarments usually greatly needed too.
  6. Furniture
    New Life Evangelistic Center can use donated beds and furniture. They may be given to men and women who are moving off the street and into permanent housing or used in our shelter. Donated beds would allow us to increase our shelter capacity.
  7. Financial Support
    Money is an obvious need for non-profit organizations. Make it a tradition to give a special gift during the holidays. Donate part of your job bonus or windfall. Leave a legacy gift such as an annuity. Become a monthly donor to provide support all-year long.
  8. Your Birthday or Special Occasion
    In lieu of gifts, ask friends and family to give to the charity of your choice. New Life Evangelistic Center allows you to easily set up an automatic monthly donation using your checking account or credit card.
  9. Your Partnership
    If you work for a business or organization, there’s a multitude of ways you can support New Life Evangelistic Center. Set aside space for us to display our materials. Donate room in your print publications as free ad space. Offer a matching challenge to your employees who will donate money to New Life Evangelistic Center. Allow employees a few hours to volunteer while on the job. Be a sponsor of one of our fund raising events.
  10. Your Influence
    If you believe in the work of New Life Evangelistic Center, spread the word to your friends. Share a link on Facebook, Twitter or a blog. Talk about why you volunteer or donate. Rally friends and family to volunteer or participate in an event.


Ten Ways to Help a Homeless Person

by NWH Admin
  1. Be Prepared
    There’s many ways to help a homeless man or woman.  Often, we fail to act simply because we’re caught off guard.  In most cases, you’ll have better success if you’ve planned ahead and are ready to meet the need.
  2. Engage The Person
    Homeless people are people.  Smile and say hello.  Go out of your way to approach them.  Acknowledging them shows respect and gives dignity.
  3. Ask Questions
    Start a conversation by asking questions.  Learn where they are from.  Ask their name.  Inquire about what they need most.  (Look for our 10 QUESTIONS YOU CAN ASK A HOMELESS PERSON.)
  4. Think Before Giving Money
    Opinions vary on whether it is best to give money to a panhandler.  Some have experimented with giving pre-paid credit cards.  In most cases, meeting the person’s actual immediate need for food or clothing might be better than giving cash.
  5. Offer A Care Kit
    Keep care packages in your vehicle that include essentials.  See our list of 10 ITEMS A HOMELESS PERSON COULD USE.
  6. Offer Public Transit Tickets
    In the St. Louis area, the Metro public transit system can be a convenient way for homeless men and women to get to appointments and resources.  Consider buying tickets in advance to keep with you.  Hand the person an address list of the organizations where they can get help.
  7. Offer Food Gift Cards / Certificates
    Food is the most common need panhandlers request money for.  Be ready to offer gift certificates to restaurants in the area.  Offer to sit and eat a meal with the person as a way to get to know them.
  8. Offer A Meal Voucher
    Many organizations, churches and shelters offer free meals to all comers 7 days a week.  Research the free meal options available in your city.
  9. Point Them To Resources
    St. Louis has a variety of services available to homeless men and women that they may not know about. You can request of a list of resources in St. Louis to hand out.  If you’re in another city, do some research to see if a similar list is available.
  10. Offer To Pray
    If you’re inclined, offer to pray for the person.  Ask what they would like you to pray for.  Your prayers will be most appreciated if you’ve taken the time to listen to the person and have offered tangible help.