Guide to Helping People Experiencing Homelessness

How To Help A NEIGHBOR 

All In is fighting for systemic solutions to homelessness with the urgency and scale this moment requires. But we want to provide a guide for how to help people suffering right in front of us every day.

Here are some basic tips on how to compassionately engage people you encounter who are facing homelessness.


1. Safety, Yours and Theirs, Comes First

Your own safety is important — if you don’t feel safe, it’s okay not to engage. 

If you see someone behaving erratically on the street, call 311 and ask for the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). HOT operates the Shelter Reservation Waitlist and their members are trained to support people in crisis and to connect people experiencing homelessness with shelter and services. 

If you see someone in need of emergency care (and only if that’s the case), call 911. 


2. Be Neighborly 

Make eye contact and smile. People experiencing homelessness are just that — people. Small gestures, like a simple “Hi, how are you?” can go a long way.


3. Stop and ask how to help 

If you have the time and feel comfortable, strike up a conversation and listen. Ask how you can help rather than assuming you know what they need. 

It’s your decision whether or not to give someone money. Remember that if you do, it shouldn’t come with strings attached and you shouldn’t dictate how someone can or cannot use it. If you are deeply concerned, carrying gift cards to a convenience store or restaurant is another option. Food and clean clothing can also be helpful, especially during bad weather. 


4. Know Your Local Services 

Never tell or try to force someone to accept a service or go to a location. People experiencing homelessness often know about their options — do not assume they lack knowledge. 

However, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with services available close to you. You can visit the city’s homelessness resource page or you can call 211, which is a program of the United Way Bay Area that connects people in need to service providers 24/7.