How can I help the homeless and the hungry when I don’t even have a job myself? I feel guilty not doing anything, but what can I do?
It is a hopeless feeling to see other people in need and not be able to immediately give them the help they so desperately require.
In the Church, we are encouraged to feel responsible for each other. Each person, after all, is a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. The best explanation of what we should do about the poor and needy people is in the words of King Benjamin as he spoke to his people, recorded in Mosiah, chapter 4.
One young man wrote us a letter concerning this issue. He was in the unique situation of being able to see both sides, as giver and receiver. His family had received help from their ward in food and clothing, for which they were very grateful. One day he and his mother passed a man on the street holding a sign asking for food. His letter said, “The instant I read the sign, my eyes fixed on the man’s, for I knew so well what he was probably feeling. I wanted very much to give whatever I could to him. I even felt exquisite pain and suffering with him as we drove past. I asked my mom if we could give him something. Since we were receiving help, my mother reminded me of the scripture, ‘All you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give’ (Mosiah 4:24). My point is, if you can spare even a little bit, the homeless and hungry will be grateful if they are meek in heart.”
You shouldn’t feel guilty if you cannot give at this moment in your life. But keep those charitable feelings, because in the future you will have more opportunities to help.
So we are back to the original question. How do you help when you don’t have a job and money to give to those in need?
Donate your time.
It would be best to work with an established organization rather than on your own. King Benjamin talks about doing things “in wisdom and order” (see Mosiah 4:27). It would not be wise for a 14-year-old girl to go visit homeless men where they congregate. It would not be wise for a 16-year-old boy to pick up hitchhikers. It would be better if you helped with food drives or worked with adults who are supervising services to the homeless.
For example, the Sydney Australia Hebersham Stake Young Men and Young Women take a turn each month with other churches in the area driving a van in a citywide project called Night Patrol. Two adults and two young people take food and offer comfort to those living on the streets. The teens who have had a chance to work in the Night Patrol van quickly found it was interesting work and are the first to volunteer to go again.
Pay fast offerings.
In the Church, we have been asked to give up two meals each month and give the cost of those meals to the bishop as fast offerings. This money is used to help those in need.
Think of others.
The young man who wrote us the letter said that one thing he really appreciated was being offered rides home from activities and school by those who had access to a car or whose parents picked them up. He also suggested paying extra attention to young children whose parents might both have to work long hours.
Pray for them.
The Lord has great power to help people work out their problems. Include the homeless in your prayers.
I have found two ways to help. First, I buy fast food certificates with my baby-sitting money and give them to the homeless. I know my donation will be used for food. Second, the Young Women in our ward make small care packages to be distributed.
Celene Williams, 14 Orange, California
The best help you can give the homeless is spiritual. We met a homeless man in Raleigh and as missionaries we couldn’t give him money, but we taught him about the gospel and how to pray and ask the Lord’s help. That night he got a job. His life changed, and later he was baptized. Teach the homeless how to turn to the Lord.
Elder Clay Patane, 21 North Carolina Raleigh Mission
Sacrifice some of your time. Let them see that people really are concerned for them.
Bridey Page, 17 Tasmania, Australia
I had the attitude that there was too much to do, and I could not do enough, so why even try. We may not be able to change the world in one day, but as Alma counseled Helaman: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).
Tracy Thompson, 17 O’Fallon, Missouri
Feeling guilty is not the solution. My branch Relief Society wanted to help the disabled, but they had no money. They helped in cleaning up an area. This project fetched them some money which they used to help the disabled. Try to do something which can help.
Ngozi Okoro, 15 Lagos, Nigeria
Volunteering in your community will not only help the needy but will bless you spiritually. Paying your tithing and fast offerings helps those all over the world and even those in your own town.
Nicole Roberts, 14 Galesburg, Illinois
Just remember that “charity never faileth” (see Moro. 7:46). I have a feeling that when that scripture was first written, the thought of money didn’t even come to mind.
Candace Paquin, 19 Mission Viejo, California