I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen. 
– John Steinbeck

Here are some things we can all do to help ~

  1. Make contact – stop and look your fellow human being in the eye, try a smile!  Say hello – start a conversation if the situation is comfortable.
  2. The right words can make a big difference when talking to someone living on the street.  Check out this link for some more great advice –
    Here Are 5 Things to Say And 5 Things Not to Say
  3. Give them a personalized flyer (see suggestions below).  Your note might even have a chocolate kiss taped to it or you can share other food like restaurant leftovers if you really believe in sharing or want to impress your date…
  4. Better yet, save paper by using similar information from a talking points notecard you keep in your car or purse to help start a conversation.
  5. Share some food (a can of salmon perhaps?  We are Alaskan after all).  Let them know where you donate and they can find aid, wish them well, and go on your way.
  6. Reload your food for sharing when you get back to your home.  Meal vouchers/gift cards for food are an easy option too. Or, buy an extra meal at a restaurant to share.
  7. Make a contribution to your favorite charity that helps the homeless.
  8. Check out more on helping the homeless – JustGive.org has a list of 35 ideas.  See more from the Bowery: Reaching out and helping the homeless and see these videos from the Make Them Visible Foundation to aid understanding of the homeless.

      How to make a talking points notecard ~

Use the example below as a template to make a notecard that you can carry in your car or wallet that has your personal touch and favorite charity(s) identified.

it can tell the homeless person ~
– that you care, and want them to have a home and food, and that you have food right now to offer, etc.
– where you donate to help the homeless, and
– how and where they can find help like Alaska 211:  (you can call the number “211” on the phone too).
– or, whatever you personally want to say

  Sample notecard ~

• Hello: How are you doing?  We want you to know that people in this community care about you and your future.  Are you staying warm? Are you hungry? I have some food to share.
• We donate to Lutheran Social Services at 1303 W 33rd Avenue (at the intersection of Spenard and 33rd), 907.272.0643. They can help with:
– Food
– Emergency Vouchers – work clothes, bus tokens, ID cards
– Housing and other needs
• We hope that they can help you find housing, food, a job and whatever other services you need.

***Some Important Things to Consider –
– We’ve built this site with an Alaskan perspective.   People everywhere, however, should be able to use this information to start interacting with fellow human beings who happen to be homeless.  We have included statistics and links to information relevant nationally as well.

Take care to abide by local ordinances.  Some authorities will ticket those who give cash to panhandlers or those who give out of a vehicle on the road.  An Alaska Dispatch article states the following:
“Anchorage authorities will ticket drivers and passengers who give money while on the roadway, and motor vehicle laws, not anti-panhandling statutes, are the basis for the crack-down.  But, if you’re a totally flagrant roadside giver and don’t plan to stop giving homeless people cash, you’re in luck!  There’s at least one loophole.  Read more here:
Don’t worry, Anchorage, you can still give till it hurts

– We recognize that this site focuses mostly on one subpopulation of homeless folks – those that we meet on the street who are perhaps the most visible homeless.  Maybe, by truly seeing and interacting with them, we will start thinking about all the other homeless people who aren’t as visible…

Hope this helps you start seeing, talking and helping!

**See our news page for recent stories and information about homelessness.**

Interaction with Homeless Persons

What type of contact have you had with homeless persons?

(Thanks to Janis Leslie Evans)


               for Audre Lorde

This city is made of stone, of blood, and fish.
There are Chugatch Mountains to the east
and whale and seal to the west.
It hasn’t always been this way, because glaciers
who are ice ghosts create oceans, carve earth
and shape this city here, by the sound.
They swim backwards in time.

Once a storm of boiling earth cracked open
the streets, threw open the town.
It’s quiet now, but underneath the concrete
is the cooking earth,
                                     and above that, air
which is another ocean, where spirits we can’t see
are dancing                joking                   getting full
on roasted caribou, and the praying
goes on, extends out.

Nora and I go walking down 4th Avenue
and know it is all happening.
On a park bench we see someone’s Athabascan
grandmother, folded up, smelling like 200 years
of blood and piss, her eyes closed against some
unimagined darkness, where she is buried in an ache
in which nothing makes

We keep on breathing, walking, but softer now,
the clouds whirling in the air above us.
What can we say that would make us understand
better than we do already?
Except to speak of her home and claim her
as our own history, and know that our dreams
don’t end here, two blocks away from the ocean
where our hearts still batter away at the muddy shore.

And I think of the 6th Avenue jail, of mostly Native
and Black men, where Henry told about being shot at
eight times outside a liquor store in L.A., but when
the car sped away he was surprised he was alive,
no bullet holes, man, and eight cartridges strewn
on the sidewalk
                        all around him.

Everyone laughed at the impossibility of it,
but also the truth. Because who would believe
the fantastic and terrible story of all of our survival
those who were never meant
                                                to survive?

Copyright Joy Harjo, America’s First Native American Poet Laureate

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