I'm always struck by the number of homeless people I see having to live on the streets in the winter because our cities don't have enough beds for them to sleep in in shelters and such. It's bad enough that in a society as affluent as ours that people don't have shelter at other times of the year, but during winter homelessness is especially tragic. Every year, San Francisco does a grisly count of the number of deaths of homeless people in the city, which often is more than 150. To put names and faces to this story, check out this article about 'sacred sleep' at St. Boniface Church in the Tenderloin in SF.
This has been an especially cold winter, so please don't forget to give gifts--dollar bills or spare change, your leftover food (leave it on a garbage can and people will eat it), clothing, food and monetary donations, or even a gift of your time volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter--to the people who need them the most this holiday season. Here are a few places where you can give:
-The Coalition on Homelessness, a tireless voice for the homeless and publisher of the groundbreaking 'Street Sheet' newspaper which is sold by homeless vendors.
-The East Oakland Community Project helps homeless people and families "transition to wellbeing."
-Central City Hospitality House, an advocacy and social service agency working with homeless people in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.
-City of Oakland Hunger Program which distributes food to low-income Oakland residents.
So as you scurry about town trying to finish up your holiday shopping, don't forget to just acknowledge the homeless people you pass in the street, even if you can't give them any money. They are human beings just like the rest of us, and deserve our respect. That's the least we can do during this season of giving.