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What to Say and Not Say to a Homeless Family


Peeples is a long-term child abuse survivor who ended up in foster care. Her goal is to inform others about foster care and social issues.

Homeless Families

Homeless families are a huge part of the homeless population. Scroll any part of social media, and you will see that people simply don't get it. Advice is freely thrown out, usually well meaning, but is it helpful or hurtful?


1. "Can't You Stay With Family?"

Asking them this question may feel like a sincere question. However, to the homeless person you are asking, it probably seems like a stupid question.

If family were an option, don't you think they would have chosen it already? It seems many are confused and think since they have family to call on, everyone else must also. This is a bizarre notion.

People don't stay with family for many reasons—some don't have families available; Some have family that is too judgmental. No matter their reason, don't bother asking if a homeless person can stay with family. They are homeless, not stupid. They've already thought of that.

2. "You're Homeless; Can't You Just Stay in a Shelter? "

What? Unless this is a single man or single woman, you should avoid asking this at all costs! Shelters are awful places that no homeless family should step foot in unless there are no other options. I mean, sleeping in a car is a better idea.

Husbands and wives are split up. If it is a single mother of a son over 10, the son will have to go sleep with a bunch of homeless men, split away from his mother. Most shelters in my area have no law about sex offenders, so a son could very easily be sent off to sleep in a giant room with minimal supervision with sex offenders or other violent criminals.

Staying in a shelter is usually only for nights anyway. There is a race to get in, with only a certain number let in while others turned away. Then, at as early as 5 am, the people are booted out back into the street. Try explaining that to a child.

So reconsider your question. Homeless families are facing enough issues without worrying about being split up.

3. "Why Don't You Just Work Harder AKA Get a Job?"

If you say this or any of the other lines that go with it, such as:

  • "You landed yourself here."
  • "You should have gotten a better job."
  • "You should have planned better."
  • "You shouldn't have had children."

You are not a decent human being and should refrain from being around people who do not fit your high horse mentality. Do you really think homeless people don't know their own shortcomings? Of course they do. So hush.

Most of the country is just 1–3 lost paychecks away from being homeless. Plans don't always work either. I had six months of savings before we became homeless back many years ago. It was gone in about three. Life happens. People get sick. Spouses die. Children get delays that keep one parent from working.

There are far too many people on the verge of losing their homes for people to act like this is only a problem if the person hasn't planned or that it can be fixed by simply "working harder." Also, you have no idea how hard it is to maintain employment when you can't even maintain where you are living from night to night.


So, What Can You Say?

Homeless people need love, compassion, and caring. So here are a few things you can say:

  • "Do you need me to help you find resources?"
  • "Do your children need any clothes or diapers?"
  • "I don't have any money to help you, but are there any other ways I can help you?"
  • "I will keep you in my thoughts." Alternatively, if you KNOW they believe in g-d, you can offer your prayers.
  • "Do you want to talk?"
  • "Can I bring you something to eat?"
  • "What is your child's favorite food?"
  • "Do you need a ride?"
  • "Do you have clothes for an interview?"
  • "Do you need help getting applications?"
  • "Do you need a sitter?"
  • "Can I help you look for low-income housing?"
  • "Can I help with your child's birthday?"

See there are many ways to be kind. There are many ways to help without handing over money also. Be kind; it's so much easier than being judgmental.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Suzie from Carson City on January 19, 2019:

Yes...there are too many of our really wonderful members/writers who have gone on to do their own thing or simply decided to leave here. I have missed them all. If I search, often I run into a few of them. Several send me notices of their new work on their own sites so we do keep in touch. I also correspond with a few of them thru email. BUT, it's truly not the same not having them here with us as in the good old days.

I'm happy you're back and I look forward to you re-establishing yourself here at HP.

Glad to hear the family is well! Take care, honey. Paula

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on January 19, 2019:

There has been a lot of changes. Started with a website with LTM, but then went off on my own after getting into internet marketing. Sadly I spend entirely too many hours a day on social media these days because that is how I earn the majority of my income now.

I had cut back here for the most of the last couple years, but after a good bit of thought I decided it might be best for me to get back to writing here, at least some.

I got hit with a case of writers block, so the idea of writing has been a bit tougher than it use to be, but still going to give it a shot. Moving some of my articles I had taken down back over here.

Family is great and thriving for the most part. I hope you are doing well! Thanks for checking in on me! Take care Paula, it's nice to see you are still here. So many people seem to be gone now.

Suzie from Carson City on January 19, 2019:

Peeples!! Am I seeing things or is this really you?! I can't tell you how happy I am to see you, honey! Where the Hell you been? I do know you went off to your own website with.....is it Long time mother? Have thought about you so much....even checked on your HP page to see what's been going on in your life. It's been such a long time. You must have so much to report on the life of you and your adorable family.

Several months ago, I cut way back on my activity here but slowly have been trying to pick up some speed and energy..

Very informative & important article you've written here and definitely advice people need to take seriously. Hope all is going well for you & that we'll be seeing you more often!! Peace, Paula

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on January 18, 2019:

You are so right, the bad apples do spoil the public opinion of the bunch. Sadly there are so many good homeless people who go without help because of stigmas. Thanks for stopping by, and I am glad you had support when you needed it.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on January 17, 2019:

I agree with you. This is a very good article. Anyone with a home can say "by the grace of god there go I" or something similar. I was lucky that the boys and I had two sets of grandparents we could stay with when their father kicked us out one week before Christmas. I had $10 in my purse. Fortunately with both sets of parents help, we had a home and I started a new job the day after New Years that year. I have every sympathy for the homeless.

The ones I don't have sympathy for are the professional beggars on the street. They take in more money per day than most of us make. You can usually weed them out by offering them a job, like mowing the lawn. They will usually retort, lady, I can make more money standing here holding this sign in an hour than the measly amount you'd pay me for mowing your lawn. They give the real homeless a bad name.

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