110: How to Compassionately Respond to Homelessness // Meg Martin

110: How to Compassionately Respond to Homelessness with Meg Martin by popular Utah mom podcast 3 in 30: image of Meg Martin with an elderly man.

I love this time of year when the whole world seems to be more focused on reaching out to our neighbors and making a difference in our communities.Today on the podcast, I am so honored to have my life-long friend Meg Martin with us. Meg is a certified peer counselor and social worker who is a founding member and the Executive Director of Interfaith Works Homeless Services in Olympia, Washington. After recovering from her own battles with mental illness and addiction, she felt compelled to help those who often struggle with the same issues but who don’t have the family and financial support to get the services they need to get well.

I hope today’s episode will make it feel much more possible to reach out to a group of people who need the support and assistance of their communities– not just during the holidays but all year long with these three takeaways for how to compassionately respond to homelessness: 

Meg Martin’s 3 Takeaways on How to Respond to Homelessness

1) Learn about the reasons why people end up experiencing homelessness 

2) Do not repress the desire to be generous

3) It’s okay to have boundaries

Use this link to donate to the Interfaith Shelter Works Project:


What did you learn from Meg Martin today? Let me know in a comment below!

**Many thanks to Shine Cosmetics for sponsoring this episode of 3 in 30. We love their makeup!


  1. Christy Spencer on 12/06/2019 at 3:06 PM


    I spent a decade working in the humanitarian sector, much of which focused on “people experiencing homelessness” (wish I’d had that term back then). It feels super presumptuous of me, but there are a few *bonus* takeaways I’d add to your WONDERFULLY done podcast.

    1.Put more financial support into PROGRAMS not PANHANDLERS.
    Panhandlers are RARELY the same people who are experiencing homelessness. (Nearly all panhandlers are part of organized crime. I have some old statistics and studies to back that up.) People experiencing homelessness are generally served best by programs that mentor and support them through things like rapid re-housing and/or case management. (Still there is nothing wrong with spontaneous acts of compassion).

    2. Identify NEEDS first, then tailor the service to meet that need.
    Sometimes we let our ‘need’ to serve override the needs to be served. Perhaps we have a specific idea, or want to do a group service project with certain parameters, and we try to push that agenda. True service doesn’t have a solution looking for a problem, but asks what the problem is, and plans service to meet it.

    3. Maintain the dignity of the recipient.
    Lengthy epistles could be written about this. But here’s a quote I used in almost all of my presentations. It’s a play on the words HELPING and SERVING that teaches a valuable principle.
    “When we help, we inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness…When you help someone, they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things…We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy….I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of the ego, and service is the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different, too…Only service heals.”
    Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen
    University of California San Francisco

    Anyway, I hope this adds to the conversation!



    • Rachel Nielson on 04/05/2020 at 11:49 AM

      What an incredible comment! YES add your takeaways anytime!!!!!!! I loved loved reading this!!! Thank you for listening to the show and adding your thoughts.

  2. Ashley on 12/14/2019 at 9:52 PM

    I originally skipped this episode but am SO glad that I needed something to listen to while I did my dishes(those always end up being the best ones anyway 😉 ) ! I’ve always had an organization only policy when viewing people with homelessness and this was a total paradigm shift for me. I love that even if they are getting supplies from shelters the face to face human interaction can be so powerful for them! Everyone needs to be see n homelessness aside.
    This podcast really inspired me to action. My husband and I put together car kits for our glove box of handwarmers, socks, gloves and hygiene items so we can just roll down our window and give them to others in need. We ended up giving other car kits to my in laws as part of their Christmas gifts. What better way to celebrate then by giving experiences to serve. Thank you for the inspiration and wonderful tips.

    • Rachel Nielson on 04/05/2020 at 11:50 AM

      Oh how incredible. THANK YOU for taking action. And what a great idea to give the car kits to someone else so THEY can have an experience to serve!!

  3. S. Bowe on 01/02/2020 at 5:36 PM

    Thank you so much for covering this topic! I’ve always felt sympathetic but my own biases kept me from taking action to do any good. Your podcast and interview makes me feel much better positioned to do something to help my neighbors experiencing homelessness. Thank you.

    • Rachel Nielson on 04/05/2020 at 11:51 AM

      Thank you so much for consistently listening to the show. I love when I start to recognize people’s names in multiple places…on email, on IG, and in comments on the website. You’re amazing!

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