As of January 2018, Michigan had an estimated 8,351 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuum’s of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Although you may not see them every day, homeless individuals and families are struggling right in your neighborhood to feed themselves and stay safe and warm. It’s easy to ignore the problem, especially when you are focused on taking care of your own family. However, with just a little extra effort, you can have a big impact on the homeless community. Here are seven ways to help.
A small donation can go a long way at a homeless shelter. Many shelters provide three meals a day, 365 days a year, for homeless or hungry people, which can add up to a lot of money. By donating just $10 or $20, you can cover the cost of some of those meals for a family. The shelter may also use the donation to buy needed supplies, pay staff members, or advocate for the homeless.
Donate New and Used Items
Shelters need more than money. Most are grateful for new items such as soap, toilet paper, kitchen supplies, or other necessary items. Donating used clothing is also a good way to help the many homeless individuals who do not have the necessary clothes to keep themselves warm and safe.
Many homeless shelters rely on volunteers to serve meals, organize and work at collection drives, mentor youth, or contribute specialized skills. Whether you can only volunteer once or you can fit it into your weekly schedule, volunteering is the perfect way to get involved and learn more about homelessness while assisting those in need.
Talk to a Homeless Individual
How many times you have you seen a homeless person on the street and chosen to turn away? The homeless are lonely and hurting and a simple smile or conversation can sometimes be all it takes to turn their day around. The next time you see a homeless individual, approach them with a smile and start a conversation. You might be surprised to find how much it brightens both of your days.
Advocate for a Local Organization
Your voice can carry a lot of weight if used to advocate for a local homeless shelter. Consider starting a social media campaign to raise funds, writing a blog on the homeless problem in your area, or talking to local politicians about ways to improve the lives of the homeless.
Create Blessing Bags
It’s difficult to know how to help a homeless person you encounter on the street. Prepare yourself by creating ‘blessing bags’ that contain snacks, personal hygiene items, socks, money, or other necessities. Carry them in your car or your purse and hand them out when you see someone in need.
Hire Homeless Individuals
Many homeless individuals would rather work for what they get than receive a handout. Consider hiring one to mow your lawn, clean up leaves, or do tasks at your business if you have one. When you pay them for the work they do, you not only help provide for them, but you also raise their self-esteem.
Homelessness is everyone’s problem and all of us should pitch in and help.