10 Ways to Address Homelessness

Note: I came across this list last month at a Denver book launch party for When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America by Kevin F. Adler and Donald W. Burnes. The suggestions on the list were written by Don Burnes and included as a handout for attendees, inside complimentary copies of When We Walk By.

  1. Talk about the issue/Challenge stereotypes. Help change public opinion by talking to your friends and neighbors. Don’t be afraid to make your friends and family aware of their own stereotypes. Let them know the experience of homelessness looks different for everyone. It doesn’t only affect the man holding the sign on the street corner; homelessness affects mothers and children, veterans with PTSD, youth, individuals with mental health conditions, and many others.
  2. Pay attention. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood and city. Stay abreast of local developments around this issue.
  3. Use people-first language. Saying “people experiencing homelessness” instead of “homeless people” reminds us that homelessness is a condition, not a personal trait.
  4. Get to know people experiencing homelessness. Their stories are important and transformative. You will learn so much from them.
  5. Engage your congregations/organizations. Hold adult education sessions about homelessness; host and mentor a family experiencing homelessness; provide space for the creation of a Tiny Home Village, a Safe Outdoor Space, a Micro Community, or a Safe Parking lot; provide space for overnight shelter and care.
  6. Address your elected officials. Call, send an email, or write a letter asking them to increase resources for addressing homelessness.
  7. Reach out to your local public officials. Ask them to eliminate the enforcement of local ordinances that criminalize homelessness and to support efforts to develop safe, secure, dignified, and self-governed alternative places for people to sleep.
  8. Volunteer. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities.
  9. Join a Group. There are committees, groups, and organizations that are fighting to eliminate homelessness. Get to know them. Join them.
  10. Provide financial support. Donate to organizations addressing homelessness.

Remember: We can ensure that homelessness is a short-term, one-time only, and rare occurrence for anyone. Be part of the solution; the choice is yours!!!

Donald W. Burnes, December 2023, Burnes Institute for Poverty Research, Colorado Center on Law and Policy

Written by 

Don and his wife, Lynn, cofounded the Burnes Institute for Poverty Research at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Don has been a researcher, prolific writer and a policy analyst about issues of homelessness and poverty for more than 35 years. He has a BA from Princeton, an MAT from Washington University in St. Louis, and a PhD in the politics of education from Columbia University.

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