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What's the best way to help the homeless? Former homeless people share their advice

SF Gate Logo By Katie Dowd of SF Gate | Slide 1 of 12: A homeless person (L) sleeps on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall St. in New York City on Feb. 28, 2017.

What's the best way to help the homeless? Former homeless people share their advice

San Franciscans encounter homelessness every day. On our walk to work, on public transit, even outside of our homes. And it's hard to pass people in need constantly, but it's also hard to know how to fix such an overwhelming problem.

One user on Reddit was curious how to help, and their simple question, "Former homeless people of reddit, what can we do to help homeless people the most?," at press time had over 2,300 comments offering suggestions.

The entire thread is worth a look; it's full of thoughtful responses and interesting conversations. But the thing that stands out the most — other than the heartbreaking family circumstances that so often led to homelessness in teen users — is the kindness of strangers.

"When people ask homeless what do you need, they are thinking about objects, things like hats, sock and gloves or any other things useful in routine life. These objects make a small difference," one user wrote. "But the most important things are not objects. Things that make most impact and helps someone are non-objects. Dignity. Kindness and understanding. Encouragement."

"I lived in my car for 3 months and the only part that wore on my sanity was feeling different and looked down on by everyone that could see my situation," user name76 wrote, echoing the sentiments of many other posters. "Physical needs weren't that hard to meet."

If you want to learn more about homelessness in San Francisco, a great place to start is the Chronicle's homelessness project page. On it, you'll find dozens of stories addressing the problems, myths and possible solutions.

To hear more advice from former homeless people themselves on how to help, read their stories in the gallery above.

Looking to contribute financially this holiday season? You may consider the Chronicle's Season of Sharing Fund. One-hundred percent of donations go straight to locals on the brink of homelessness.

For more information, visit seasonofsharing.org.

© Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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