Here are a few simple ways to help the homeless for ordinary people that don’t include volunteering at the soup kitchen. I also have a personal experience at the end that taught me the best way to help.
Plan to buy more at the restaurant than you are going to eat, get a take home box and take it directly to somebody that you find out on the street. I do this because most the time I take home leftovers from my business lunch or dinner it sits and rots in the refrigerator until I throw it away.
A lady in my office has a keen eye for helping the homeless and has put together a box where the employees can place their aluminum cans (see picture). Every other week she places the box out by the dumpster with a note that asks them to take it.
A common and standard form of giving is to get gift certificates to fast food, salad, or dinner restaurants and give them away as you pass those that have signs up that say they are hungry. This is way better than giving them money and is specifically giving them what they need.
Invite them to join you for dinner. Invite them to get whatever they would like up to a certain price point if you are concerned of being taken advantage of. Note: It is easier to invite them into the car when I don’t have anything valuable lying around the backseat.
Invite them to do odd jobs around the house, or better yet around your place of business. The front lawn or yard or garden area is ideal for this purpose and then give them
Donate time for professional services(dentist, doctors, pshycologist)
As I have talked to the homeless I have been amazed that sometimes what they are really longing for is human interaction. It goes a long way when somebody talks to them and shakes their hand and/or looks them straight in the eye. This should not be underestimated.
The most important thing I think is talking to them and asking what they need. Today we drove passed a man that had a sign that read, “Hungry, please help.” We went on our way but after our dinner we asked for a “to go” box and filled it up with our leftovers. We passed the man again and decided to stop and give him the food. We stopped and talked to him for a few minutes, and he graciously accepted the food. I inquired as to what he really needed and to my surprise he said he needed another crutch explaining that he didn’t have the second one and secondly he pointed to his shoes that were worn down and falling apart and said he needed shoes. We asked him what size and he told us ten and a half. We got his name and said that we may see him again.