Do you feel a calling for helping the homeless? Do you have a passion for aiding those who find themselves in circumstances almost too dire to bear?
It can be overwhelming to look at the size of the homeless population; you may feel helpless. However, there are so many ways you can start helping the homeless today!
There are ways you can aid the homeless without even leaving your home. For example, did you know you could knit hats and mittens or sew blankets? There are countless ways you can make a lasting difference in someone’s life.
No matter what your skill is, there is a way for you to start helping the homeless. Think outside the box. Read this article for more information on how you can change the lives of the homeless now.
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” -Kofi Annan
Related: How to Find the Right Volunteer Opportunity
Helping the Homeless Resources
Would you like to view a video about this article? Consider watching our original video on helping the homeless right now. It’s short and sweet!
- Not Always Homeless: A Christian Approach to Helping the Homeless– Faith-based remedies to the homeless epidemic in America based on formerly homeless individuals’ triumphant stories!
- Fighting the Good Fight on Hunger and Homelessness: Life Stories and Meeting Inspiring People– An inspiring story from real life experiences while making a point to remember that anybody can become homeless.
Why Is Helping the Homeless Important?
It is estimated that one-third of all American households are living “hand-to-mouth.” Millions of people are only one extreme situation away from losing everything.
In 2018, more than half a million Americans were classified as homeless. We often pass judgment that homeless people are there because of their own bad choices. There is a stereotype that the homeless are unwilling to work.
We must remove this kind of judgment and discard false misconceptions when looking at the homeless. Many are there because of poor choices related to lifestyle or substance abuse. However, mental health issues or unforeseen and unavoidable situations are also contributing factors.
You Can Help End the Cycle of Homelessness and Substance Abuse.
The effects stretch further than just the people experiencing homelessness. There is a correlation between being homeless and substance abuse.
In 2017, 38% of homeless people were alcohol-dependent. It was also recorded that 26% were addicted to pharmaceutical drugs and illegal drugs or harmful chemicals.
Some people become addicts because they are homeless. Many individuals turn to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. This furthers drug abuse.
Violence in our communities, drug-related crimes, and gang-related incidents increase through this cycle.
It becomes easy to see how the far-reaching effects of homelessness affect an entire community.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or substance abuse, there are options. Take a moment to read about Celebrate Recovery and the positive impact it can have on your life.
You Must Remember that Homeless People are Human.
It is easy to pass judgment or expect the next person to step in and make a difference. You need to remember that homeless people are still people just like you and me.
Very few people have chosen to be homeless. They grew up with dreams, goals, and wishes, just like the rest of us. Often, their current circumstances were not of their own doing. It is our responsibility as citizens to assist where we can.
You Are Needed to Help the Homeless Change Their Lives.
Being homeless can lead to a lifecycle that is virtually impossible to break alone. You can start with the fact that it is difficult for homeless people to get a job to support themselves.
Because of their appearance and circumstances, companies are hesitant to give them a job. Without a job, it is even harder to gain an income and restart their lives.
You can change this. By volunteering time, money, and other aid opportunities, you can change their lives.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Related: Who Is Celebrate Recovery For? (The Truth May Shock You)
Practical Ways to Help the Homeless
There are many ways that you can get involved and help the homeless. It takes a little bit of creativity and motivation, but you can forever change lives.
Not all of the ways to get involved include money or physical goods. You may have a knack for teaching or a voice for advocating that can make changes in big ways.
The best way you can get involved right now is to start praying for homeless people.
You can also support Street Sheet, a bi-weekly paper that brings awareness, outreach, and support to the homeless community. Here are a few more practical ways to help the homeless.
#1. Educate Yourself.
Start by learning about the root causes of homelessness. Understanding what causes homelessness in your community can go a long way to changing the bottom line. It will also help you in finding out where you are best suited to help the homeless.
#2. Respect the Homeless and Respond with Kindness.
One of the greatest things you can do to help the homeless is to impact the overall stigma. Respect the homeless as individuals and humans. Understand that each person has their own story and specific set of circumstances, so don’t judge.
Respond to their situation with kindness. Show others around you that you can leave judgments and condescending thoughts behind you when reaching out.
You may have to exercise self-control not to gossip, but remember they probably didn’t choose these circumstances!
#3. Volunteer Your Time.
Shelters, soup kitchens, and women’s shelters are always in need of helping hands. You can volunteer your time to the needs of the homeless regardless of your financial situation.
Contact local shelters and other outreach programs to find out if they allow children to get involved. Make it a family event and instill the art of helping others from a young age.
#4. Volunteer Your Professional Services.
Do you own a salon? You can help the homeless by offering a free wash and cut!
There are so many services that can help the homeless. Printing services can be offered to assist them in applying for jobs, housing, and government grants. Financial advice can be offered in helping the homeless to start off on the right foot once they secure employment.
Get creative and see if your company can help with the many needs the homeless and the shelters have!
#5. Tutor Homeless Children.
Homeless children often miss school or fall behind. Their parents do not have the financial means or transportation to get them the assistance they need.
Volunteer by tutoring homeless children, giving them a higher chance of success in the future and breaking the cycle.
#6. Teach a Skills Class.
Do you know how to knit or sew? Perhaps you are good with woodworking or computers. You can offer your skills and teach a class to the homeless to help them develop skills they previously didn’t have.
By learning new skills, their chance of employment increases. They may develop skills that can allow them to make money, such as knitting hats to sell.
Grab some free knitting patterns in the blog post: Knitting Hats for Charity!
#7. Help with Employment Opportunities.
Another great way to help is by seeking out employment opportunities for the homeless. If you know of a hiring company, find out if they would be willing to hire an unsheltered person.
By spreading awareness and encouraging homeless employment, you can help someone take that first step!
#8. Donate Food and Groceries.
Does your family seem to waste a lot of food? Consider donating unused food items to a local shelter or homeless person before they go bad.
You can also purchase and donate groceries to a local food bank to aid in their endeavors.
Rather than offering money, you can give a homeless person a gift card to a local grocery store.
#9. Donate Necessities.
Many homeless people lack the basic necessities that we take for granted. Items such as toothpaste, deodorant, or female sanitary items are vital to everyday life and cleanliness.
Consider creating Homeless Survival Kits. These kits include basic items that can make a difference in the overall health of homeless individuals. You can include items such as:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hair comb and brush
- Travel mirror
- Disposable razors and shaving cream
- Soap and shampoo
- Towel and washcloth
- Sanitation spray
- Wound spray or gel
- Female sanitary items
- Toilet paper
- Bottled water
- Lip balm
There are endless combinations of items that you can include in these kits!
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- 10-Piece Deluxe Convenience Kits
- Winter Homeless Survival Kit
- 100-Piece First-Aid Kit
- 12-Pack Starkist Lunch-to-Go
Care packages come in all sizes and styles and will make a lasting impact on the health and mental wellbeing of the recipient.
#10. Donate Clothing.
Basic clothing items such as socks and undergarments are always needed. Everyday clothing that is durable is also ideal, such as jeans, cotton long sleeve shirts, sweaters, and coats. Seasonal items such as hats for the sun and winter hats and gloves are also needed.
You can either donate unused clothing from your wardrobe or purchase new clothing. Perhaps you can take a specific homeless person under your wing and treat them to a special shopping trip to get them the items they need.
Speak with your local second-hand and thrift stores. Many of them offer discounts to the homeless. See Second Chances Thrift Store for a great local charity that gives to the homeless.
Blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags are also high on the list of needs! Remember these items when you consider what to donate!
#11. Donate Toys for Children.
Play is a key element to healthy development in children. Unfortunately, children who are part of a homeless family often miss out on this basic lifestyle.
Toys that are no longer being used are great. Items, such as coloring books, crayons, and reading books, can change a child’s entire perspective and put a smile on their face!
- First Little Readers Pack: 25 Irresistible Books for Beginners
- Unifix Reading Phonics Kit – Great for at-home learning!
#12. Donate Recyclables.
Many places pay for recyclables like glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper. Set up a system of collecting these items and donating them to the homeless for the return value.
You will begin to instill the feeling of accomplishment. As they collect the items themselves, they not only earn value but aid in stopping pollution.
#13. Donate Money.
Many charities, shelters, and soup kitchens have financial needs. Utilities need to be paid as well as other services besides the food they provide. Consider donating financially to these organizations.
#14. Donate Goods or Gift Cards.
Many organizations will discourage you from offering monetary aid to the homeless. Rather, offer help in the form of goods or gift cards that can only be used for specific reasons.
We need to be cautious that we are not further aiding a person’s negative habits, such as alcohol or substance abuse. See what homeless services organizations do in your area and how you can help meet a financial need.
#15. Donate Transportation.
You can always help in the form of transportation. Often the nearest shelter with space is too far away, or the location where employment is available is not easily accessible.
If you are not comfortable transporting someone yourself, offer to purchase a bus, subway, or train ticket or pass.
“Go out into the world and do good until there is too much good in the world.” -Larry H. Miller
5 Charities that Help the Homeless
Another great way to help the homeless is to sponsor and support charities that are doing just that.
#1. Building Futures with Women and Children
Building Futures with Women and Children (BFWC) is a charity that works to build communities where women and children can be housed free from abuse and neglect.
#2. Coalition on Homelessness
Coalition on Homelessness works to create permanent housing solutions for homeless people and fights against injustice against the homeless communities by fighting for their rights.
#3. Family Promises, Inc.
Family Promises, Inc. recognizes the plight of the local homeless and works to create a stabilized environment that rebuilds their life and a sustainable future for their children.
#4. HomeAid America
HomeAid America understands that most of the homeless population is women, children, and families that experienced a life-altering event. Armed with this knowledge, they work to give them a second chance through social services.
#5. New Eve Maternity Home
New Eve Maternity Home offers help to mothers in crisis pregnancies. They offer services by providing support, housing, and necessary medical assistance, allowing women to enter motherhood with self-respect and dignity.
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” -Mother Teresa
Related: How to Help Sick Infants with Threads of Love
How Can You Help a Homeless Friend?
There are times where the invisible fight of homelessness in America knocks on doors closer to home. Do you know a friend who is fighting homelessness? Are you unsure how to assist them without enabling the situation?
#1. Offer Transportation.
One of the easiest ways you can help a homeless friend is to offer them transportation. It doesn’t have to be something that takes you out of your way or schedule.
Whether a center for addiction recovery, a shelter, or a job interview, offer to help them get there.
#2. Give Them a Place to Get Ready.
Many homeless people don’t have a way to make themselves clean and presentable.
If your friend has the opportunity to attend a meeting for assistance or a job interview, give them a safe place to get ready. Offer them the chance to take a warm shower, get cleaned up, and feel more confident!
#3. Invite Them for a Meal.
Many of us have no idea how it feels to go hungry. If you know someone who is homeless, invite them over for a home-cooked meal. Ask them to sit with your family and enjoy an evening of not only hot food but great conversation and true acceptance.
#4. Take Them on Outings.
Homelessness can cause feelings of inadequacy, judgment, neglect, and depression. If you plan to visit a museum, have a picnic by the lake, or otherwise relax and enjoy the day, invite your homeless friend along.
The impact of being accepted and included can further emotions of love and confidence.
#5. Pray and Encourage Them.
One of the greatest things you can do for a homeless friend is to pray with them and encourage them. Let them know they are heard, and you recognize their needs and wants. Assure them you truly believe in the power of our Lord and know He will hear their cries.
Encourage them when things are looking dark or not going their way. Tell them you believe in them and their ability to restart their life!
“Give yourself entirely to those around you. Be generous with your blessings. A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” -Steve Maraboli
The Best Ways to Impact Homelessness Within Your Community
There are some specific ways to make a big difference for the homeless population within your own community. While reaching out nationwide is always great, you can start right in your backyard.
#1. Create a List of Shelters to Promote.
You can gather the information right from your phone without ever leaving your couch. Create a list of local shelters, soup kitchens, and other organizations helping people living on the streets in your town.
Start with listing the names, locations, and contact details. You can even get in touch with charities and get a list of needs and volunteer opportunities. Then, spread this information through social media and word of mouth with friends, churches, and family.
Speak with officials at local schools or within your company about options for fundraising for the homeless. You can work with organizations to create survival kits or donate the money to a specific homeless charity.
You can host a car wash, sell chocolates, or make stuffed animals for children. There are limitless options to fundraising, so use your creativity and have fun while doing it!
#3. Advocate for the Homeless.
Stereotypes and pretenses prevent many people from reaching out and helping the homeless. Use your knowledge and voice to change this.
You can write letters to local churches, businesses, and schools encouraging them to help. Consider posting on social media why stereotypes are wrong and the long-term detriment of not changing these mindsets.
Don’t forget that you can hit the streets and talk to the homeless, get their stories, and share them!
Advocate for the homeless and be a voice where others are quiet.
#4. Research Local Candidates.
When there are upcoming elections, you should research local candidates. Find out where they stand in the fight for the homeless and what policies they plan to support, change, or add to the system to make a difference.
Speak out against candidates that do not feel helping the homeless is a priority. You can also show support for the policies you believe will make a lasting difference. Share this information with family and friends to spread awareness.
You can also make proposals to current and potential candidates about policies and ways you believe the homeless can be helped.
#5. Be Aware of Government Assistance Programs.
Gain a solid knowledge of local government assistance programs. Find out who qualifies for them, and the application process.
Many homeless individuals are unaware of the opportunity for assistance available to them. By helping them through the processes, you can give them a chance they might have missed.
“Be the sun in someone’s dark sky.” -Matshona Dhliwayo
Related: How to Volunteer and Be an Elf All Year
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are People Homeless?
Each person or family has an individual story. Causes for homelessness can include loss of a job, death of a loved one, severe disability, mental illness, substance abuse, and so much more. If you know someone homeless or would like to get involved, check out one of the ways listed in this article.
How Many People Are Affected by Homelessness?
The estimated total for homeless individuals is just over 500,000. However, this number fluctuates daily. The homeless population represents 0.2 percent of the American population. Approximately 17 people are homeless for every 10,000 citizens. These numbers only count American citizens.
Aren’t People Homeless Because They Want to Be?
No. Because of negative experiences of violence or abuse in a shelter, some individuals chose to be unsheltered. Most people do not choose to be homeless. Their reasons are varied, just like the population and the focus needs to remain on the issues causing homelessness.
Aren’t Homeless People Addicts?
In the same manner that we find alcohol and substance abuse within the greater population, you will find it within the homeless community. While certain individuals have become homeless due to substance abuse, others have turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. Help should be provided to individuals regardless of any bad choices made.
How Can I Help Homeless Children?
You can encourage and advocate against the stigma and stereotypes allocated to homeless children. You can also provide necessary stationery, toys, and other learning aids to support their mental and emotional development. These things are often seen as treasures to a young boy or girl.
How Can I Help Homeless Women?
Research and promote women’s shelters. These shelters provide safety and relief to women who have experienced domestic violence and other forms of abuse. You can also support organizations that help with maternal benefits to expecting and new mothers. They often need all the help they can get.
You should have a strong idea of the many ways you can help the homeless and get involved in making life-long changes.
Homelessness is an invisible fight in America, as many overlook the causes and community effects. You can do something today that can make a difference in the life of a homeless person.
Have you had experience in helping the homeless? What worked and what didn’t? What items would you add to a homeless survival kit?
Volunteering not only impacts your community but it makes a positive difference in your own life. Stop by the Shop today and grab a free Volunteer Log. This will help you keep track of every volunteer opportunity you have!
Did you enjoy this article? Leave a comment and share on social media! Tell us about any charities you feel need to be recognized for their amazing work!