The chances are that we’ve all passed a homeless person whilst showing a lack of consideration and an air of neglect on at least one occasion. Sadly, and more often than not, these struggling individuals are treated as if they do not exist when someone passes them.

While some might believe that they are incapable of helping, there are simple, easy approaches that do wonders for a homeless person’s morale and quality of life. Pastor Freda Stevens, the founder and lead pastor at Amen Always Church in Jacksonville, Florida, dedicates much of her time to volunteering by helping out to supply meals for the homeless.

She has presented five effective ways for one to aid the homeless in future encounters.

1. Acknowledge the Situation

Homeless people experience overwhelming loneliness, a feeling that is exacerbated when strangers do their best to avoid eye contact and ignore their pleas while they pass by. Pastor Freda Stevens is adamant that a friendly smile and words of encouragement can have a massive, uplifting impact on their self-esteem. Greet them and attempt to engage in a sincere conversation, as it will demonstrate that you genuinely care to learn about your homeless neighbor’s story.

While you are talking with them, however, do not let your preconceived notions of homelessness blind you to the actual situation. Many people are homeless, and everyone has their own reasons that have led to homelessness and simply stereotyping every situation as the same only harms them.

2. Start Helping Right Away

Commonly, homeless people need assistance to have a decent quality of life each day, but Pastor Freda Stevens insists that cash is usually not the best solution. Instead, she recommends giving them gift cards from fast food or grocery store chains, since it will provide them with a warm meal and an opportunity to sit inside a store or restaurant, away from the streets.

If you would prefer to not offer them money or gift cards, granola bars and water bottles are great choices that are small and healthy.

3. Assistance is Always Valuable

Although winter is normally the hardest season for homeless people due to the weather, it is often the season where they are given things from other people due to the holidays and charity drives. While the weather is not as bad, giving gifts to the homeless during the other seasons of the year is equally important. Gifts such as an umbrella or raincoat during the spring, or a new water bottle in the summer are just as appreciated by the homeless as they are often forgotten about outside of the winter.

4. Be an Advocate for the Homeless

One of the biggest plights of the homeless is that they do not have anyone advocating for them and raising awareness of the situation. With how few people take the time to talk with them, the stereotypes attached to homelessness fester and continue to be an issue.

Pastor Stevens explains that one of the easiest ways that you can assist the homeless in your neighborhood is by talking about them to your friends and family as well as explaining how they can give a little to improve someone’s life a lot.

5. Invite Them to Church

Ask your homeless neighbors if they would be interested in attending a church service with you. Or you can make them aware of assistance programs that are nearby. Options are available, welcoming them, and they must understand that they are not alone in their hardships.

Additionally, many churches have plans in place to provide some assistance to those who are homeless which people might not be aware of and you can bring it to their attention.

Pastor Freda Stevens concludes that homelessness does not make a person any less human, it simply means that they have fallen on hard times. Having another person give them some help can go a long way to helping them get back on their feet.