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Resources Related to Homelessness

A Resource Guide To Get More Involved with the Homeless in My Local Area

Why?

According to GenerationOn.org, “On average, over 578,000 people are homeless in the U.S. on a given night--31% without shelter.” That’s over half a million people without a home, bed, or a roof over their head each day.   Homelessness is much more prevalent than most of us know. 

Did you know that in my home state of Pennsylvania, close to half of all people termed “Literally Homeless,” have spent over 1 year living outdoors or in short term homeless shelters?

There are things that you can do and resources that are available to help.

What can I do as an individual?

Learn More.  By learning more about the plights of friends and neighbors, we become more compassionate.

Consider volunteering your time at a local homeless shelter or other organization that provides for the material, spiritual, and emotional needs of the homeless.  Who knows, you might make a new friend!

Prayer.  The number one request I have received from the homeless is for my prayers.

In talking about the homeless, it’s easy to feel intimidated.  So, I urge you to do one small thing…when you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t cross the street.  Simply look at them directly and make eye contact.  You can say hello or ask them to join you for a cup of coffee.  Or, you could even start-up a conversation, asking where they are from, or what sports teams they cheer on.  If all else fails, most everyone likes to talk about the weather!

You might just find that in meeting someone new and seeing them as a person, that you might become inspired to do more.  If you aren’t yet feeling direct interaction, that’s ok too.  We are all uniquely gifted.  Maybe you are being called to be behind the scenes in some other way. Not everyone is needed to do the same things, but…we are all called to love our neighbor.

What can my Church, Neighborhood Group, Scouts, or Student Group do?

Consider hosting a drive to collect items that might be needed for the homeless in your area based upon the time of year.  In the summer, lip balm and sunscreen are appreciated; in the winter, coats, hats, gloves and hand warmers are sought after items.  You can collect from friends and neighbors, or at school, church, or local businesses.  These items can be given out personally on the streets, or through a local organization.  I encourage you to consider your donations carefully, ensuring they are clean and usable.  For many on the street, doing laundry is a luxury.

You could also gather together with friends to make a meal.  At our church we created a Meal Making Ministry, inspired by our “John’s Meal” cooking experience.  This ministry has now grown significantly, and at our last event, we made food for over 1000 people and had 100 volunteers participate.  It’s a great way to involve kids too!  They can prepare food, package blessing bags, and they love to make special cards and other items to show they care.  You can share these blessings with local organizations in need.

Be aware that different areas of the country have different rules related to the homeless and some cities even have bans on food sharing in public places.  Make sure to learn about your local area by talking with local law enforcement or shelter staff.

Resources for the Homeless to Get Help

Government and Other Resources related to Homelessness

HUD Exchange connects those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with nearby resources, where local agencies can provide services ranging from food, housing, health, and safety - Hudexchange.info

National Health Care for Homeless Council - nhchc.org

National Coalition for the Homeless - Nationalhomeless.org

US Department of Health and Human Services, Resources for Persons Experiencing Homelessness - HHS.gov

National Runaway safe line is there to listen whether you are thinking of running away or already have - 1800runaway.org 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Samhsa.gov

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