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What to Say and Not Say to a Homeless Family

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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.

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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.

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