How to help the homeless at Christmas
by Magda Knight
Christmas consumerism can be lovely when kept in its place, but if you're yearning to do something different this year, one option might be to help the homeless as well as your family, friends and self. Giving homeless people a nice Christmas might be easier than you think!
It might be that you're feeling an urge to do something different this Christmas. A Christmas you'll probably remember is one you've spent helping the homeless. Without laying on too much of a sob story - there are other places who can do that better and with more authority than Mookychick - Christmas is an emotional time where people have pretty high expectations of happiness. With the homeless, a little goes a long way at Christmas, and even if you don't have much in the way of time, money or independence, there are still a number of ways you can safely help...
The best way to start is to google for an organised homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your area, and see what sort of help they're looking for over the Christmas period.
Donations to homeless shelters
Shelters might well be looking for:
- Donations of socks, blankets, warm clothes, hats, toiletries and footwear
- Donations of useful food like basic canned goods
- Donations of presents - from second-hand books to toys for kids (and although second-hand toys are thoughtful, every kid likes something new that has only ever belonged to them)
- Donations of Christmas gifts (think luxuries like biscuits, cakes, chocolates, sweets and board games)
Donations are not only used by the shelter but are also given out on the door to those who are unfortunate enough to be turned away due to no spare beds.
Raising money to help the homeless
Sure, there's not much time until college/school/work finishes for the holidays. But it really doesn't take long to set up a donation day.
1) Contact a shelter and find what donations they want.
2) Agree with your principal/headteacher/student union/boss that you can have a donation day.
3) Get them to agree to your putting a large box or two in a public area that people can fill with the donations that the shelter of your choice is looking for.
4) Get your principal/headteacher/student union/boss to promote the donation day in the ways they know best.
5) Tell all your friends and use emotional blackmail to make sure they help fill your donation box so you don't look like an idiot.
6) Then get someone with a car who loves you to deliver the donations to the homeless shelter.
Ta-dah! A bit of determination and you can get this done in 3 days.
Shelters nearly always need people to help out with the cooking and serving of Christmas dinner, and also with cleaning up. Your family might not be keen on your doing this, because it will want you to spend time with them. That's fair enough! Then again, Christmas is a long day. Your family might be willing for you and a friend to spend a couple of hours helping out with the cooking at a homeless shelter. Alternatively, you could consider putting in a couple of hours of volunteer work on the days surrounding Christmas Day, and save that day for yourself and loved ones.
Obviously, you don't want to seem a do-gooder giving presents to an individual where they're not wanted. The best way to avoid the controversy of what some homeless people may or may not do with the money you give them is to not give them money at Christmas.
Instead, daft though it may seem, buy a marrow or dog treat or two from the supermarket, and see if you can find a spare clean blanket. Wrap the blanket and dog treat tidily with a festive ribbon, put it in a bag, then wonder around until you find a homeless person who has a dog and looks a bit cold. Unfortunately, you'll probably find one sooner rather than later. Offer them your present, be your own sweet self, and you'll be virtually guaranteed to have made their day (and their beloved canine companion's day, too).
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@MagdaKnight is the Co-Founding Editor of Mookychick. Her YA fiction and other writings have been published in anthologies and in 2000AD. She likes you already, so Email her and say hi, or visit her blog. She is on Google+.