A note from John Ramsey on best practices for helping those who are homeless during the holidays.
By: John Ramsey, Executive Director of Tarrant County Hands of Hope
As the director of a homeless street outreach organization, Hands for Hope, I get asked often this time of year about “how people can help those dealing with homelessness”. There are ways to help!
I would heavily recommend first and foremost, that you keep safety as YOUR number one priority. Also, as a street outreach, keep on hand a gallon baggie filled with personal hygiene items, we refer to them as hygiene kits but they’ve also been called care bags. Every time we deal with someone living outside, we provide one. It’s simply a baggie filled with travel-size items, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, small deodorant, etc., and we will include snacks like protein bars when we have them on hand. This would be an option to give someone in lieu of cash at a traffic light for example. One item that I highly recommend to include should you choose to provide hygiene/care kits is a list of helpful numbers on a piece of paper inside the bag. To simplify your list, simply put ‘Dial 211’, it’s a free call operated by United Way and has the same list including ours of available services. You can find a copy of the ‘Pocket Pal’ on our website hohtx.com which has helpful numbers for all of the area homeless service providers. (Keep in mind, in many locations, it is illegal for an individual to solicit from an intersection and a little-known fact, there is also a violation referred to as ‘solution from a motor vehicle which can result in the driver receiving a citation for calling an individual to the car to hand something to them.)
Another and even safer option for you would be to simply contact us, Tarrant County Hands of Hope. Within Tarrant County anytime you see someone that you feel is dealing with homelessness, whether at an intersection, on the road, sidewalk, or anywhere else, you can simply take a picture from your phone and text it directly to us and our street outreach team will follow up and try and locate the individual and offer services including beginning the process for housing. Text to 817-298-2779.
One last word of caution, this is the season of giving, and there are many people in need, however, there are also others that are focused on taking advantage of that caring heart. Be aware and know that not everyone with a sign is, in fact, homeless, not everyone with “Veteran” listed on their sign is a Veteran, and not every family you see with a sign is homeless. Don’t lose your joy over wanting to provide help. Again if you’re unsure but feel compelled to help, our street outreach team is available and will follow up with every call within Tarrant County and if out of Tarrant County, we will work to direct you or forward to a partnered organization in that area.
I hope you and your family have a very safe and Happy Holiday Season!
Tarrant County Hands of Hope