Holidays for the Homeless

This is Thanksgiving week in America with most people either looking forward to spending time with their families or dreading the same. Travellers are fighting new Homeland Security regulations in airports and thoughts abound of recipes , food and a few days away from the stress of work.

There is another class of people dreading not just Thursday but the entire holiday season. That class is the homeless. Not only do these people inhabit empty city streets during what is usually a cold and rainy time, they are often estranged from their families and have few friends. Thus this is a particularly unhappy time, cause for reflection and often recrimination. These feelings are often drowned in alcohol or obliterated by other substances. They are just too difficult to add to the daily problems of finding food and shelter.

Kevin Barbieux, the The Homeless Guy, a long time blogger has an eloquent post describing this time of year. I reproduce his post in full.

The Holidays arrive and the giant social/economic machine that otherwise dominates all of life is shut down, and everyone goes home to party. And the city is left desolate, save for the dark figures of humans bundled in stained and torn winter clothes seeking shelter from the cold in the concrete and steel bulwarks of empty banks, government offices and other business buildings. Every door is closed, and locked, while the good citizens are away. Time moves at it’s slowest pace. Conversation falls dry and flat, like that of an old married couple too familiar with each other. Mostly, there is silence between them. Standing still. Knowing that there is nothing to look forward to is depressing. Exerting energy to walk some place with no purpose in the destination is even more depressing. Waiting for the Holidays to be over is the chore of homeless people. They endure it with the patience of a preoccupied parent waiting for a child to be done with a playground – sitting and waiting and hoping it will be over soon.

Kevin is an individual who demonstrates that being homeless is not a descent into barbarity and barbiturates but something that can happen to caring, thinking individuals who just can’t manage the complexities, social and otherwise, of the world they are forced to inhabit. He often gives insight where others only produce platitudes.

This Thanksgiving don’t just be thankful for what you have. Try to physically help those who have less for whatever reason. Find out the address of your local shelter and try to arrange a donation of food for tomorrow or for Christmas. Check out Kevin’s idea of gift-bags with those simple amenities like socks and mittens, toothpaste and a toothbrush or maybe just a cheap mp3 player. Mention the idea to your family as you dine on the bounty so taken for granted in most households. Talk about those who have neither household nor family.

Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Germany so this isn’t a shorter week and having no family, this time holds absolutely no meaning for me. But if you enjoy Thanksgiving, spend a little time thinking of those who don’t.

Think about holidays for the homeless.

Update: If you are unsure where to start looking to help, you might try here at Second Harvest or to find somewhere to just generally help you can go to Don’t Almost Give which is a service by the American AdCouncil bringing together all kinds of volunteer organisations.

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