Homeless people living in your area certainly need things such as food and shelter, but their needs are so much more complex than just that. You can offer your resources, your humanizing attention, and likely learn from them too in doing so. To further understand how to help homeless people in your community, read on.

Learn About This Complex Issue

The last thing you want to do is jump into action without developing an educated sensitivity to people without a home. Learn about how a poor family life, a history of abuse, substance dependency, mental illness, and more factors contribute to one’s chances of becoming homeless. Know that homeless people likely seemed like you at some point in their lives, and that their homelessness is not necessarily a product of their choices. Educating yourself builds your empathy for those without homes and helps you not treat them as a monolithic group but rather think of them as unique individuals with their own journeys.

Engage People Compassionately

After understanding the issue better, be mindful of the homeless people around you. If they reach out to you, reciprocate their initiation with eye contact, your undivided attention, and kind words. If they don’t, consider striking up a conversation. Try to find a point of commonality that could help you form a relationship with them.

If you see a clear need, don’t be afraid to ask them if they need help meeting it but also think about when people offer to help you. If you don’t enjoy when others don’t regard your self-esteem and try to fix your problems for them, don’t treat someone you see on the street like that. If you lack this direct contact with someone, consider partnering with a charity or homeless shelter. Volunteer your time to build these relationships in a structured environment or otherwise help the cause.

Give Your Resources

Just like volunteering your time, giving other resources is another way to help homeless people in your community. Donate money or items a charity or shelter needs to continue its operation. If you don’t have ideas of what you can send to a shelter, communicate with them about their current needs. That said, you could buy wholesale bags and totes for people who pass through homeless shelters because these are great tools they can use to carry their belongings wherever they go.

Moreover, if you possess certain skills, consider teaching classes at your local shelter. People in a shelter may need practical personal finance skills, job-specific computer software or typing knowledge, or even nutrition and cooking classes. There are many class possibilities—just think about what you know that few others do and talk to shelter leadership about whether they want to bring you in to share your expertise.

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