VIEW ALL RESULTS

What Should I Do If…

It is not easy seeing someone trying to survive on the streets of the city, and our reactions can range from pity, to anger, to choosing not to see the person at all. As hard as it is to witness the suffering of others, we encourage all New Yorkers to exercise empathy – to imagine what it’s like to have no home and no support network, to be cold or hungry or sick, to have hundreds of people walk by you each day and pretend you don’t exist.

The question of how to help a homeless person on the streets is not always an easy one, and while some general answers are outlined below, the best place to start is by remembering the humanity of each man or woman you see in a public place. Treat each and every person with dignity – but also follow your own instincts. And remember that small acts of kindness can have tremendously positive repercussions in the lives of others.

What To Do:
Unless you feel that the situation is unsafe, ask the person if he or she needs assistance and has visited the Coalition or any other organization that helps homeless people. You can print out and offer the person one of the Coalition’s downloadable Crisis Cards and Resource List (updated regularly on the COVID-19 update page), order a box of our pocket-sized resource guides (Z-cards) by emailing us, or simply use our Online Resource Guide to find the closest service.
WHAT TO DO:
You can print out and offer the person one of the Coalition’s downloadable Crisis Cards and Resource List (updated regularly on the COVID-19 update page), order a box of our pocket-sized resource guides (Z-cards) by emailing us, or simply use our Online Resource Guide to find the closest service. Unless you feel unsafe doing so, ask if the person is ok, has someplace to go and needs help. The NYC Department of Homeless Services has Code Blue and Code Red procedures in place to ensure that homeless people have access to emergency shelter in extreme weather.
WHAT TO DO:
Call 911 immediately and request medical assistance.
WHAT TO DO:
Some homeless people have had bad experiences in the shelter system and are afraid, or prefer not, to return. Others have been wrongly denied shelter, even though they have a legal right to shelter. You can refer that person to the Coalition’s Crisis Intervention Program, which specializes in such cases. He or she should come to 129 Fulton Street no later than 8am on Mon-Fri. If you can, offer the person subway fare to get to the Coalition.
WHAT TO DO:
It is extremely important to treat such issues with extreme confidentiality, given the stigma attached to homelessness among children. The best thing to do would be to contact the teacher or other appropriate person at the school and let him or her know of your concerns. You can let the school know about the Coalition’s website as a resource.
WHAT TO DO:
Each of us must make our own decisions about whom to help and how, and just because someone is asking for food or money doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is homeless. But it’s safe to assume that person would not be asking for help if help was not needed. If you do not feel comfortable handing someone money or food, you can download the Coalition’s Crisis Cards or email us to order a box of our pocket-sized resource guides (Z-cards) – although giving someone subway fare with those materials will go a long way as well.
WHAT TO DO:
Call 911 and request medical assistance.
WHAT TO DO:
Dial 911 immediately.
WHAT TO DO:
Politely ask the store or restaurant manager what the reason is for denying service or ejecting the homeless person, and let him or her know that even those without homes have the same rights as everyone else. If you are comfortable, offer to buy some coffee or food for the person being ejected.
WHAT TO DO:
Without becoming intrusive, try to get a badge number while taking notes on what is transpiring. Your mere presence as a witness may be helpful. Contact the Coalition with a description of what you have seen.
WHAT TO DO:
Many people rely on the income from bringing recyclables to redemption centers for their survival. Bringing in recyclables is good for the city, and it allows the homeless person to earn some money. You can offer them your own recyclables to help.
WHAT TO DO:
You can either download the Coalition’s Crisis Cards and Resource List (updated regularly on the COVID-19 update page), or email us to order a box of our pocket-sized resource guides (Z-cards) to hand out, or utilize the Coalition’s online Resource Guide. Offering the person some spare change, a MetroCard or a gift card to a restaurant along with the resource information is always appreciated.
WHAT TO DO:
Read about the Coalition’s Volunteer opportunities.