Is there more that we can do to help the homeless?

I work in downtown San Francisco, and every time I step in or out of the BART station I find myself apologizing to at least one homeless or less fortunate person who is begging me for food or money. It’s baffling to me how many of these people are able to survive with little to nothing, but what’s even more baffling is that hardly any of us fortunate people with homes and food for ourselves aren’t willing to help. When I can, I’ll offer a snack I might have in my purse. Trust me I know this doesn’t make me a saint, but I can’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt as I walk around the streets of the city on my lunch breaks.

Upon expressing the amount of guilt I’ve been feeling for having a large amount of materialistic items myself and not contributing enough, a friend of mine explained to me that I shouldn’t feel bad, because even if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to help all of those less fortunate.

When I heard that, it did make me feel less guilty. However, it also infuriated me. Why can’t I help them all? What’s stopping me? Is it because I’m just one person? That’s a ridiculous excuse if you ask me. If it’s one person against the world, so be it, but something needs to be done about the poor people who can’t get themselves back on their feet.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t understand how we, as a community or even as a country, can still let this happen. Because it’s not only in San Francisco that people are suffering. I could travel to any big city in this country and others and find a number of people living on the streets. Even rural areas aren’t free of homeless people.

Of course there are programs offered to help the less fortunate, such as rent assistance, housing placement services, job assistance, and other short-term, one-time services, but these cater specifically to homeless families. So what about the others?

A majority of the homeless who are most difficult to help are categorized as being “chronically homeless.” What this means is they experience long-term and/or repeated bouts of homelessness coupled with disability (physical or mental). There is assistance for these homeless people as well, however it must not be working out too well if they’re still considered chronically homeless.

There are websites to donate toward helping, foundations to look into, and information that should be known by much more of our population.

What more can we do? In an ideal world, we would make shelters better for the people who have to stay in them. We would produce even more programs of assistance for the people who have it the worst out of everyone. In an ideal world, everyone would have a home.

Let’s all take a step back the next time we hurry to purchase the next big Apple product or a name brand handbag and think about how someone sitting outside the mall we’re in is going to be sitting there for the rest of the night, week, month, and possibly year, unable to purchase anything they might need to survive.