Feeding and donating on Atlanta’s streets is not a long-term solution. While well-intentioned, street feedings and donations often have unexpected results. Many homeless recipients become overly dependent on these types of handouts. The food served can expose them to a host of food-borne illnesses if handled improperly – by them or by the person doing the feeding. Food left rotting on our city streets and in our beautiful parks creates unsightly and unsanitary conditions, attracting bugs, rats and other unwanted pests. The good news is there are plenty of wonderful organizations already in place to ensure that no homeless person in Atlanta goes hungry. Other organizations provide a broader range of vital services that Atlanta’s homeless men, women and children need. And all of them can use your help!
Myth: Food is the biggest need the homeless in Atlanta have.
Fact: There is a long list of organizations that provide free meals every day, all year round, in safe, dignified indoor settings. These organizations are equipped to meet the need for food among Atlanta’s homeless persons. However, all homeless individuals have needs far beyond a lack of food. By partnering with organizations that provide other vital services, such as shelter, medical care, job training and substance treatment, you are helping to truly meet the greater needs that accompany the experience of homelessness.Myth: Public feedings are necessary because there are not enough places for Atlanta’s homeless to eat.
Fact: A calendar of free meal locations shows that for every meal of every day, there are places in Atlanta where those in need can receive a free meal in a dignified indoor setting. These great organizations can use your help providing these meals rather than attempting to feed people on the street.Myth: The best way to help the homeless is to give them a hot meal or money.
Fact: Organizations that serve the homeless can always use items such as socks, towels, wash cloths, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, blankets and laundry detergent. One of the best ways to help a homeless person is by giving them information about where to find a free meal, a hot shower and services that will lead to lasting change. By directing someone experiencing homelessness to a provider of daily services or partnering with such a provider, you are helping more of Atlanta’s homeless persons find daily support and paths toward self-sufficiency.Myth: Public feedings are a harmless and effective way to help the homeless.
Fact: While always well-intentioned, outdoor public feedings do nothing to end homelessness or change lives. Instead they unfortunately are known to foster an ongoing pattern of enabling and dependency. They also result in public health problems, such as the unsanitary accumulation of trash on our streets and the attraction of rodents to our urban public spaces where homeless persons often gather.Myth: Organizations that serve the homeless receive all the money they need from the government or wealthy donors, so they do not need our help.
Fact: Volunteers are always needed, but so are material donations and financial contributions that help pay for things like utilities and other resources that directly benefit their homeless clients. The most impactful thing you can do is to contact a service provider to discuss their needs and ask how you might be able to help. Or simply contact the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 2-1-1 line to learn which organizations are currently in the most need of volunteers and other resources.