How to help a new homeless camp

So there have been a lot of homeless people setting up tents and staying under an overpass near my work. What should I do to help them? Can I just go up to all the tents and knock or yell out or whatever and ask them what they need? Will that be taken as aggression or something? What’s the best thing I can do for them?

I’d ask around to find out if there are people who are recognized as leaders and/or organizers for the camp. Then ask them what the camp needs. They’re probably going to have the best idea on what is needed.

As an alternative, go to existing groups in your community that assist homeless people and ask their advice on how you can help the people in the camp. These groups have experience in helping homeless people and probably have a better idea of what they need than you or I do.

Buy them a camping toilet, there are several basic ones to choose from. There are several very cool and cheap solar powered light sources out there, small, portable simple to use. And I’d bet a couple of tanks/lrg jugs of clean water would be greatly appreciated.

Also consider sleeping mats and sleeping bags depending on your climate. You can usually get something at the second hand store.
And maybe even some fresh and dried fruits would be awesome.

I’d just drop it all off without a word, but that’s me.

all good ideas, but i could picture the dropping it off without a word going wrong. i can picture the weaker, slower ones getting shorted on said supplies if you were to just drop the stuff off without some level of oversight regarding the distribution. i can imagine fights occurring in certain situations too.

I would suggest unless you’re willing to assess them individually and make choices for them, then come down to it, they will and likely already have sorted that stuff out. Just my opinion.

I like to put together backpacks with basic supplies. Soft foods, a can opener, clean socks, gloves, hat, unscented baby wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste. The wipes are especially appreciated because with 5 or 6 they can really get clean. It’s not as good as a shower, but close. Ikea has great backpacks and rain ponchos for $4-5 each.

The really large thick contractor trash bags are also appreciated. They can do everything from wearing it, to repairing a tent to keeping their few belongings dry with a couple of those. Some good ideas on this list. I disagree with the emergency blanket thing though. They rattle a lot and don’t really help all that much. Big trash bag is much more useful and keeps the wind off better.

Also gift cards for a store or restaurant that’s close.

If you know basic first aid, and aren’t squeamish, get a red cross back pack from the surplus store and fill it with neosporin, gauze, bandaids, baby wipes. Go around and ask if anybody needs wound care. Homeless folks have serious problems with infected wounds, especially on their feet. Clean 'em up with the baby wipes, and then disinfect/bandage the wound. Try to get them to go to the hospital if you see signs of sepsis, that sort of thing.

I mean yeah, if you walk in there and start talking, you may find someone who will help you form an organized plan, or you may find a lunatic who attacks you. It may be the same person at different points in the addiction satiety/craving cycle.

The most important thing to take with you in this work is some de-escalation training. Learning how to carry peace into the situation is vital to achieving anything productive. Show up in the morning with a big thermos of coffee and some disposable cups and just sit and chat with them. Just giving your time and civil conversation is quite helpful.

Good luck, and Og bless you for wanting to help.

Tell local residents and businesses because the crime rate is going up and residents will be feeling a lot less safe in the neighborhood.

Moderator Note

If you want to debate the pros and cons of homeless camps, feel free to start a thread in Great Debates, but don’t threadshit here. Thanks!

No Warning Issued

Actually, there is an older documentary directed by John Carpenter illustrating the potential benefit to society of ‘homeless camps.’

I like this thread. My soul-crushing corporate job is ending in just under a year and I’ve been pondering what my next move should be. I would like to work something like ‘secular ministry’ (is there even a word for that?) into my routine. Not to direct anyone, but just to make people’s particular path through life a little more bearable.

Assorted zip ties would be incredibly useful too, I would think.

This is a very good suggestion.
I had a (literally) direct hand in helping to <sigh> break up and clean up a homeless camp in our town a couple of years ago.
It was pretty disgusting. If the secular ministry (yes it is a term) that allowed them to start the camp in the alley behind them (and several other businesses) had had the resources, or been able to get the resources, to provide some port-a-potties along with servicing on a regular basis, there probably wouldn’t have been such a public calling for the removal of the camp.