What are the causes of homelessness and how many people are homeless?
Poverty and a lack of affordable rental housing are usually cited as the two trends that have increased homelessness over the past 20-25 years. In Baltimore, experts estimate that as many as 3,000 people experience homelessness per night, and that over 30,000 people do annually. In Maryland, at least 50,000 people are estimated to be homeless annually. These are estimated to be low figures. In 2004, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, conducted a study that has suggested that at least 3.5 million people in the U.S. will experience homelessness within a given year. Research has also suggested that about 7% of Americans experience homelessness within their lifetimes.
How can I be most helpful to those who are experiencing homelessness?
You can have a direct and/or indirect influence upon homelessness, and both are equally valuable. It is important to realize that you don’t have to have direct contact to be of assistance if you are uncomfortable with that. Some people are not comfortable with direct contact and prefer indirect approaches, so it is important that you find the outlets you are comfortable with.
Some examples of indirect influence include activities like obtaining street cards and giving them to your local community centers or places of worship, places where they can be posted and may be easily accessed. Other activities could include advocacy and helping to dispel myths about homelessness within your community and to your local legislature. (Please note, that any community center sharing our street cards also needs to see our Street Card Document for essential information, click here.) An example of direct influence is when people share street cards, resources, and material goods with those who are experiencing homelessness directly.
Won’t people be wanting money from me and not resource cards?
It depends. Some people may want to know about the resources available to them in their area and may be highly motivated to seek assistance, while others may not. How one shares the resource cards can also be a significant influence. If you are not comfortable, don’t give them out, it would be better to give them to a community center. If you are questioning whether or not to give them out, it’s probably better that you abide by your intuition and go the route of sharing them with your local community center or library. That being said, it can be a beautiful and moving experience to share street cards with your fellow neighbors and human beings.
If I do give out the street cards, how might I go about doing that?
You can see a sample demo in our videos on YouTube. You will also find examples of what not to do in our essential street card guide, as well as some examples of possible approaches. One example of an approach that may be helpful is to only approach someone who is actively soliciting support by holding up a sign, in a safe area (say a busy business area during the day that’s well-trafficked with other pedestrians and vehicles so that you are not alone or in danger, and it can also be quite helpful to be in a group so that you are looking out for one another. You can say something like, “Do you know about these cards? They can help you to find access to many resources in your area that can be helpful if you’re interested.” And if fitting, with a hello and a smile, sharing your first name only (no personal contact information) and asking their first name, wishing them well ~ these gestures are often appreciated.
In our experiences of street outreach, most people are incredibly grateful and appreciative for a person’s care and kindness and simple acknowledgements when someone stops to talk with them. However, some people are not interested in social contact and may not want to be engaged or talked with, so they may not want resource cards or other information and may turn down your offer for the cards or may take the card in a way that seems begrudging to you. While this doesn’t happen often, it too is to be expected on occasion. Lastly, please see our essential street card document for safe ways to share the cards, as it gives you valuable information to make informed decisions that will best meet your and others needs. Thank you so much for your interest in this vital work! We are largely able to do what we do because of you!* Please see our educational waiver. We can then share our street cards with you.