By: Staci Wright
This is the sixth, and final, installment of the blog series “Simple Truths: debunking common stereotypes surrounding those experiencing homelessness.” You can find the introduction to this series here.
In this series, we have discussed common stereotypes surrounding those experiencing homelessness.
If you need a refresher, they are:
1. “All homeless people are dirty, smelly and mentally ill.”
2. “All homeless people are criminals.”
3. “If someone ended up on the street it is their own fault.”
4. “Homeless people are lazy, why don’t they get a job?”
5. “Most want money to fuel their drug and alcohol problems.”
The last stereotype we are about to address is an important one:
“Whatever I do is not going to make a difference. Just leave it to the professionals.”
But what if we told you that there are things that you can do to help? Homelessness is a complex and layered issue, but that does not mean there aren’t ways you can have an impact! Here at Gateway, we have some ideas of ways we can work together to end homelessness.
We all have busy lives and busy schedules, but it’s nice to take time to give back. Volunteering can help bring people together, strengthen communities, and make a difference in the lives of others. Serving others helps us cross boundaries and learn first-hand the stereotypes we may have been harboring subconsciously. At Gateway, we believe that change in the lives of our clients AND our volunteers is possible through dedicated service and relationships built under our roof. To learn more about Gateway’s Volunteer Education Program, check out our recent blog.
Do a little spring cleaning and donate some of those items that don’t get a lot of use to those who could really use them. Non-profit organizations are always looking for help with donations to help keep their operations running. Gateway, for example, is always in need of toiletries, clothing, shoes, linens and nonperishable food items. In addition to in-kind donations, financial donations can often have a stronger and more sustainable impact on a nonprofit organization’s ability to live out its mission (keeping our lights on and employing our dedicated case managers, for instance!) Anything you can contribute–time, items, food, or funds–helps us greatly.
Learning the facts about issues you’re unfamiliar with can be an eye opening experience. Take a tour of Gateway to see first-hand the work we do and the lives that we help change! Not in Atlanta? Then find a homeless services agency nearby you and request a tour. Learn about the reality of homelessness in your city and educate others so that, together, you can be better informed about the issues. Even reading this blog series is a great first step! Take what you thought you knew about homelessness and replace it with these “simple truths.”
Empowered with a better understanding of the issues underlying homelessness and ways to impact change, you can help us by becoming an ambassador for ending homelessness in your community. We hope this series has opened your eyes, touched your heart, and shifted your mind to think about those who are experiencing homelessness in a new light. As we often say at Gateway, there no “homeless people,” only people who are currently experiencing homelessness. They are human beings, not statistics—individuals, not stereotypes. Those experiencing homelessness are people, just like you and I.