Sunday, September 21, 2008

Toastmasters Speech #3 "Get to the Point"

This is speech number 3 "Get to the Point"

How to Help the Homeless


This last June, my wife and I went to the state of Washington where we spent 4 days in downtown Seattle. It was beautiful. We went to many shops, ate great food, went to interesting museums, and visited the fish market. Everything was amazing…but every block was filled with homeless beggars. Every time I came out of a shop a homeless person asked for money. I felt like a deer in headlights and did not know what to do. I did not want to give cash out of guilt and I was not sure what this person would do with the money, but I was also burdened with the thought that the person might need help. I am sure that many of you have experienced the same thing in Austin and have had the same thoughts. During those four days in Seattle, I educated myself and found good ways to help the homeless. In this speech, I would like inform you about three things that you can do to responsibly help a homeless person.


1. The first thing that you can do is never give cash. Too often the cash is used to feed an addiction. A lot of people are homeless because either they have a drug problem or they like the freedom of a homeless lifestyle. Giving cash usually just promotes self-destructive and irresponsible behaviors. If you are approached by a homeless beggar, ask them what they need, and if you feel inclined then help them out. If they need food, give them food. If they need transportation, give them transportation. If they need clothing, give them clothing. One morning, I went to the Whataburger and was approached by a homeless person asking for money. I asked what he needed to buy and he said food, so I said I would buy him food at Whataburger. He persisted and asked only for money. I said food or nothing. I bought him food and after he ate he told me he would have used the money for beer.

2. The second thing that you can do to help the homeless, is to direct the homeless person to charities or shelters that help the homeless. There are charities that help a homeless person’s short term and long term needs. If you are approached by a homeless person asking for cash, just give them the name and direction of a charity so that they can get help. In Austin, there are many charities completely willing to help the homeless by giving food, shelter, job training, and job placement. In a report by Corporation for National and Community Service, Austin is listed as the 5th most philanthropic [phil-in-throp-ic] city in the U.S. and there are more than enough resources to ensure meals and clothing for the homeless. One Austin charity is the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) which provides shelter, job resources, and health centers for the homeless. I am now handing out an information sheet with charities that help the homeless in Austin.

3. The third thing that you can do to help the homeless is to treat those who are homeless with respect and dignity. Not everyone is looking for money to support their addiction. Some have no job skills, some have had problems with domestic abuse, some have lost their job, and some are trying to quit their addiction. When approached, you can at least listen to what they have to say. There are some people who completely ignore the homeless and even some who physically or verbally abuse the homeless. I met an old homeless lady who was on a wheelchair. She told me about how it is a daily occurrence that she would be spat upon, have things thrown at her, and be verbally abused. The least that we can do is to give a bit of our time to listen.


I am sure that many of you have been approached by a homeless beggar and have had a feeling of guilt or have been overwhelmed with not knowing to help, so I have given you practical things that you can do to help the homeless. These are to refrain from giving cash, to direct the homeless to responsible charities, and just to talk to them in a respectful manner. Homelessness is a huge problem that requires citizens to be wise and responsible while trying to help the homeless.

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