Four Ways To Not Feel Helpless About The Homeless Population In Your Community
Even though the United States is one of the world's richest countries, millions of its approximately 323 million residents are homeless. Up to 3.5 million people live on the streets or in shelters and over a million of them are children. In some cities, homelessness is something that cannot be ignored as people take harbor in transit stations or camp out on sidewalks. If you are concerned about the safety and health of people who live in and out of shelters, but are at a loss as how to help, consider the following ideas.
Donate Money and Necessities to Shelters
While it is a no-brainer that money is a great gift to those in need, if you are worried that the funds you give directly to someone suffering from homeless may go to support an addiction, donate directly to a homeless shelter.
The professionals that are trained to work with homeless individuals and families can funnel the funds into activities like helping a family put down a security deposit on an apartment or buying a monthly pass for public transportation.
However, if you are short on funds or want to give something other than money, there are plenty of items that homeless shelters always need including the following:
- Clothes, either new apparel or used items that are clean and in good condition. Consider donating good quality items that adults can wear to job interviews, apparel for children and winter coats.
- Computer equipment such as printers and laptops.
- Personal toiletries such as toothbrushes, shampoo and soap.
- Phone cards with pay-as-you-go phones for clients.
- School supplies for homeless children.
- Books and magazine subscriptions that are on a homeless shelter's wish list for clients.
If you want to give items on a regular basis, ask to be added to the mailing lists of homeless shelters in your area, such as Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities.
If are looking for a way to contribute to your community and meet new people, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter. Organizations have a variety of needs. You can help prepare meals, be an after-school tutor, help write grants or lead computer skills classes.
Even if you do not have the time to volunteer on a regular basis at a set time each week, you can still donate your time during high demand seasons such as Thanksgiving and Christmas when shelters need extra help preparing holiday meals, providing gifts and collecting supplies.
Become an Advocate
In addition to donating and volunteering, you can also become an active advocate for the homeless. If you are concerned about a rising population of homeless citizens in your town, write letters to politicians, including members of Congress, and attend city council meetings and town halls to voice your concerns in person. If you help to make your elected officials aware of homeless issues, they are more likely to help those in need.
Many cities have street newspapers that are sold by homeless people on street corners. If you have editorial skills, contact your local street newspaper and offer to write, research or edit articles.
If you do not mind asking others for money on the phone, contact the development offices of homeless shelters to find out if they need volunteers to make calls to donors to renew pledges.
Even if you do not plan on being an advocate, you can still educate yourself on the basics of homelessness issues in your state and around the nation.
Ask homeless shelters in your area for brochures that provide detailed statistics and demographic data. So if anyone ever questions why you choose to spend your time and money on helping out, you can educate them and maybe help persuade them to join your efforts.
You can also read fiction and nonfiction books about people who have experienced being homeless to help you understand what it is like to be without shelter. If you need help compiling a reading list, just consult with staffers at your local library. Many libraries also provide services for the homeless and educational programming for the public.