How to Help Feed the Homeless

Three Parts:Making an Everyday EffortGetting Involved in Your CommunityGoing the Extra Mile

Are you interested in helping to make sure your fellow man is still eating? Helping to add something to humanity in lean times, when many can become selfish, is highly commendable. Here's how to get started making a difference!

Part 1
Making an Everyday Effort

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    Keep a food kit in your car. Most of us don't have constant access to the homeless community. There might be the same person we drive by or pass on the street, but other than that, it's totally random. So be ready to help by keeping a food kit in your car (or mom's!). A gallon-sized resealable bag (or two) with non-perishable items is a great way to always be ready.
    • As for non-perishable items, think the basics. Granola bars, canned fruit or vegetables, peanut butter, maybe a candy bar -- pretty much anything you can open and eat (that can't get smushed, like potato chips).
    • Don't forget pet food! It's estimated that around 10% of homeless people have pets to keep them company. That's 1 out of every 10! Pet food can be just as useful -- if their pets aren't fed, that's one more thing they have to worry about.
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    Have a few gift cards on hand. You know how practically every checkout line nowadays has row upon row of gift cards readily available to inspire that impulse buy? Instead of needlessly spending money, spend it for a good cause! Having a gift card or two is super easy to carry around. Now where to?
    • Keep it simple, like Starbucks, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, or Target. Even $5 would be an amazing gesture. Gift cards are much easier to carry around wherever you go!
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    Keep your recyclables. As you've probably noticed, homeless people often go around collecting cans and bottles. We all have recyclables that we could donate to someone who actually needs the change, so keep yours! And hey, it saves you a trip! That's win win. That's by winning.
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    Donate to a food drive. If there's not one going on at your school or work, find out about what's happening in your community. Some organizations practically have food drives that run all year long. Check your newspaper, local schools, and other news outlets.
    • If you can't find a food drive in your area, there are plenty of other ways to donate food! Contact your local shelters, churches, and coalitions to ask what they need. This is especially useful around the holidays.
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    In general, don't give cash. You've heard it before and we'll say it again: when you give money, who knows what it could be used for? Some organizations say that giving cash keeps them on the street, so they don't go searching for assistance at shelters and coalitions.
    • But do feel free to donate cash to nonprofits and other similar organizations that assist the homeless. When you help the helpers, your dollar can reach maximum efficiency. They know exactly what to do with it!

Part 2
Getting Involved in Your Community

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    Work with local church programs. They go by different names in every town, but one is your local Catholic Charities (CC) which is a clearing-house for this and other programs. They aren't interested in whether you're a Catholic, or not, for the record. They'll be grateful for any help you can give!
    • Whether your help is in the form of volunteering your time, money, food, or clothing, you will be making a positive difference. Those that go to churches looking for help aren't necessarily religious; they just know they'll reach people that are inclined to help.
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    Get a list of shelters. The Internet and the yellow pages will be super helpful here. Once you have a list comprised you can:
    • Make phone calls, asking how you can help each one. Some may need volunteers, some may need food, and yet others may need personal items, etc.
    • Have information at the ready when you are talking to a homeless person. Giving them a can of food feeds them today, but telling them about a shelter feeds them for much, much longer.
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    Contact your local soup kitchen. Why stop at donating the food when you can help prepare it? Homeless people don't just need food, they need a smiling face to go along with it. You can restore their faith in humanity by just lending a helping hand like they're a worthy human being.
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    Fundraise. Wanna take your efforts to the next level? Fundraise at your school or workplace! Even if you get a few friends together, there's power in numbers. The more people you get involved, the more people you can help. Whether it's for a day or a month, it's a good idea.
    • For bigger fundraisers, get the word out! Make flyers, pass 'em out, send emails, do a couple Facebook shout outs -- whatever can reach the most people. Even if everyone donated one dollar, it'd be something!
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    Get involved with a local coalition. Though you may not know it, there are probably coalitions in your area with the main purpose of helping out the homeless. These are nonprofit organizations that aim to reduce the number of people on the streets. Get involved with yours!
    • In America, calling 211 or 311 can put you through to the crisis hotline if you find someone desperately in need. The emergency dispatcher may alert someone from the coalition to the area immediately.[1]

Part 3
Going the Extra Mile

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    Organize a food drive. Just like fundraising, you could organize a food drive! Sometimes people are more inclined to give away canned goods over money -- we notice it less in our pocketbooks. Start one at school or work! Make a goal and get to it. Now how long will it run for?
    • Go big or go home, right? Contact your local newspaper or news station for coverage. Get the word out! You have such a good cause; who'd say no? Get the word out on social media and tell all your friends -- you'll need back up!
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    Get the government involved. Since the homeless don't vote much, they don't get a lot of attention when it comes to our representatives. Let yours know that you want initiative taken!
    • Right now the "Bring America Home Act" is trying to be pushed through legislation.[2] For more information, visit the National Coalition for the Homeless' website.
    • In addition to pre-existing efforts, write letters! The more letters your rep gets, the more he or she will have to sit up and take note.
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    Get involved in local politics. Your current representatives not doing anything? Get involved yourself! Even being on the school board is a step in the right direction! Sometimes people won't speak for you, so you gotta speak up yourself!
    • Start attending committee meetings, for starters. Get to know the people you need to get to know. It'll be hard to start momentum all by yourself. Other people probably feel the same as you do -- you just need to team up!
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    Help with Habitat for Humanity. Feeding the homeless is one thing, but why stop there? Once they have a roof over their heads, they have so much less to worry about -- and more money to spend on food. Don't just think about shelters -- volunteer your time elsewhere, too!
    • You can also feed the habitat workers! Contact your local division to ask if you can sponsor lunch or, heck set up a lemonade stand. Every bit helps!
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    Start a local program where you are. Obviously this is going to take the most work -- community approval, start-up costs, possible licensing, etc. But it is possible -- it's how the programs you know got started: one person. Are there any gaps in your community that could be filled?

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Categories: Volunteer and Community Service