Opinion: Speak to homeless people with respect

One+helpful+resource+for+homeless+people+in+the+New+Orleans+area+is+the+Travelers+Aid+Society+of+Greater+New+Orleans.+This+non-profit+is+committed+to+preventing+homelessness+and+helping+homeless+or+stranded+families+and+individuals+regain+a+self-sufficient+lifestyle.+Photo+credit%3A+Tess+Rowland

One helpful resource for homeless people in the New Orleans area is the Travelers Aid Society of Greater New Orleans. This non-profit is committed to preventing homelessness and helping homeless or stranded families and individuals regain a self-sufficient lifestyle. Photo credit: Tess Rowland

Brailey Penny

Whether you’re Uptown or in the French Quarter, homelessness is all around us with New Orleans having a rate of 302 people who are homeless for every 100,000 residents according to the latest point-in-time count done by the city.

So what do you do when you see a homeless person? Do you look away and make quick judgements, or do you see them as somebody who just needs some extra help?

I am challenging you to look past the cardboard sign and understand that the homeless community just needs somebody to view them as normal people. If you feel like you are in a safe environment, ask them questions, talk to them, make a connection and know what resources you can offer them.

One helpful resource for homeless people in the New Orleans area is the Travelers Aid Society of Greater New Orleans. This non-profit is committed to preventing homelessness and helping homeless or stranded families and individuals regain a self-sufficient lifestyle. They offer a day shelter, crisis-intervention counseling, a self-help employment program and so much more.

Through service-learning with the Travelers Aid Society, I have had the opportunity to meet employees and some of their clients. After listening to their stories, I realized that all it takes is communication to make a difference in somebody’s life.

Homeless Street Outreach Specialist Angela Owczarek gave my public relations class some tips and questions to ask when talking to the homeless community.

1. “Hi, my name is __, how are you doing today? Or “I have been seeing you around. What’s your name?”

2. “I don’t have any money, but is there another way I could help you?”

3. “Hi, would you like to talk? Tell me about yourself.”

4. “I know of some local resources that may be able to help. Would you like more information?”

5. “I will keep you in my thoughts,” or “I wish you the best.”

These are just a few examples of helpful things you can say when you encounter a homeless person. Just be kind and treat them how you would want to be treated. You may not be able to solve their problems or offer assistance, but a simple conversation could make a huge difference in their day or in their life.