Give respect, not money, to homeless people

Giving homeless people money is only a quick fix to a much larger problem.

Like many other students, walking by a homeless person on or near campus left me conflicted with feelings of guilt and fear. Sometimes I would give money, and other times it was easier to look the other way and ignore the homeless person altogether.

After working closely on a class-based project with Simpson Housing Services, a Minneapolis housing and shelter organization for the homeless, I now believe that instead of giving a quick buck or a low glance, homeless people should be given the respect and dignity that every person deserves. Respect should especially be given to homeless people because respect creates motivation, creates positive social interaction, and in a homeless person’s case, gives hope.

Giving respect to people is the first step to motivation. I find it impossible to believe that homeless people would want to go out and apply for jobs and work with the public when the public does not even want to look them in the eye. By showing respect and making eye contact as you walk by, you give a homeless person a feeling of worth and importance that could motivate them to seek jobs that also could give them a feeling of worth and respect.

Not only does respect help motivate a homeless person, but it also encourages positive social interaction. It is often assumed that a homeless person wants to buy drugs or alcohol and that those are the reasons a person is homeless. If you give a person respect with eye contact, it could lead to an actual conversation. I think there is no better way to form your opinion about a homeless person than by talking to the person. You will be surprised to find that some homeless people are college-educated and just had some bad luck.

Even if you have no desire to talk to a homeless person, the least you can do as you walk by is give them hope. It is wrong to make other people feel inferior and act like they are invisible. Making eye contact and saying “hello” can make someone’s day and perhaps even give them hope. Those few words that you say as you walk by could be the only words the person hears all day.

Giving respect is free and often warrants more positive results. So make eye contact, have a conversation and give hope. Now, as I walk by a homeless person, I smile, say “Hi,” and once in a while have a conversation that makes my day.

Danielle Mousseau is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]