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How to Help the Homeless Around the Holidays

The holiday season is a festive time full of warmth, fond memories, and joy with family and friends. It’s also a time when people are generally kinder to others. It’s a season of giving beyond simply placing presents under a tree. This giving spirit is rooted in the history of Christmas, sung in Christmas carols, and seen on many classic Christmas movies and TV specials. 

One of the greatest opportunities to make a difference during this season is helping the homeless. The holiday traditions, plentiful food, and bounty of presents can remind us of those in our community who lack these blessings. If you live near a city, there’s a good chance you will encounter a homeless person standing at an intersection seeking help to get a hot meal. This sight tends to hit the heart a little harder if you’re driving home with a trunk full of gifts. Factor in the colder weather in Nashville and most parts of the U.S. at Christmas, and the needs of the homeless are even more magnified.

Even if you have a desire to ease the suffering of others, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Maybe you’re unsure how your single contributions can make a difference. Or you’re too busy this time of year to find out. The negative stigma society places on the homeless prevents some people from wanting to help. You may even be concerned that your effort might further compound the issue of homelessness. 

So just, how can you help your homeless neighbors this holiday season? There are a number of ways to help and make an impact in their lives this Christmas. 

Give Financially to Organizations Serving the Homeless

There are a number of excellent organizations like Nashville Rescue Mission that care for the homeless well and show the love of Christ to those in need each holiday season. 

These organizations have proven programs and services that make an impact in the lives of the homeless in your community throughout the year. Most of these organizations are nonprofits existing from the generous donations of others, and that’s where you can help. 

With the winter months ramping up, there are greater demands on the programs and services these organizations provide. By supporting these organizations financially, you’re helping the homeless in an easy, yet impactful way that requires very little of your time. Your monetary contributions equip these valuable organizations with the resources they need to keep their programs running and serve the homeless at Christmas and beyond. 

Donate Gift Items

Many organizations that support the homeless are often in need of specific items to give to the homeless men, women, and children they serve. These organizations have wish lists posted on their websites with items people can donate to help the homeless community. Nashville Rescue Mission even has an Amazon wish list of specific items, making it easy to buy and directly ship these items to the mission.

While you are out shopping for Christmas presents for your loved ones, you can pull up a copy of a wish list and buy a few items to help the homeless as well. Many of these organizations will have drop-off locations available to take your items. 

Before you buy anything, please make sure your items purchased are specifically requested by the organization. You don’t want to give a truckload of teddy bears to a homeless shelter if they’re not needing them. The last thing you want to do with your well-meaning intentions is create more headache for the organizations you’re wanting to help.

Tell Your Friends and Host a Drive 

If you have a heart to help the homeless over the holidays, then tell your friends and family about it. Spread the word about the Nashville Rescue Mission or another organization you love that helps the homeless in your community. Tell them how they can support these organizations over the holidays. Word of mouth is powerful. Your advocacy will do more to help the homeless than you think.

Use the power of the internet and social media to share your thoughts online. Write a blog, send a tweet, or make a post on Facebook or LinkedIn about a homeless shelter or organization you support. Include links to the organization’s giving or volunteering pages so your followers can help, too. 

If you have the vision for it, consider leading a donation drive with your friends, family, coworkers, Christmas party, or church small group. Or better yet, make an outing of it and go as a group to the shelter to drop off the donations together.

Volunteer in a Homeless Shelter or Nonprofit

If you’re looking for a more active way to help the homeless in person this holiday season, then volunteer at a shelter or nonprofit that serves the homeless. Many shelters and organizations serving the homeless have several key ways you can volunteer, especially around Christmas. 

The Nashville Rescue Mission has multiple volunteer opportunities to serve the homeless during the holiday season:

  • Sort or wrap Christmas presents
  • Cook and serve a hot meal
  • Organize and sort donations
  • Serve as a guest chaplain
  • Lead a Bible Study for NRM guests
  • Tutor a Life Recovery Program participant
  • Lead a 12 Step Recovery Small Group 

Hear Their Stories

When you encounter a homeless person as you’re out and about, don’t be afraid to say hello. Bring a friend with you if it makes you feel more comfortable. Strike up a conversation with a homeless person and ask how he or she is doing. Introduce yourself and address them by their name. Buy them lunch or a cup of coffee and make time to hear their story. You may be surprised at what you learn. Offer to pray for them if you do and share the good news of Jesus with them if appropriate. 

When you take time to treat homeless people as human, you give them respect and dignity.  This can be a great gift to them this holiday season. Remember, they are created in the image of God. God loves them as much as he loves you and I. Jesus, whose birth we celebrate during the holidays, died for them too. 

If you encounter homeless people on a regular basis, create some cards to hand out to them that provide helpful information on local shelters and organizations. Make some small bags of snacks, restaurant coupons, toiletries, and bottled water to share as well.

Get Started and Make a New Holiday Tradition

The holiday season is a time for enjoying family traditions. Many of us appreciate making new traditions of our own as a family. This Christmas, I hope you’ll make time to help the homeless. These ideas will give you some guidance on how to begin. It’s up to you to take it from here. Could this become a new holiday tradition you’ll cherish for years to come?

As you celebrate Jesus this Christmas season, remember His words about serving those in need, including the homeless, in Matthew 25:40:

 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

May we honor Jesus well by serving his homeless brothers and sisters this holiday season.

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