Your Go-To Guide
Everyone deserves a place they can call home. Yet in every community, there are people struggling to stay in their homes and others who have lost them. Regardless of your skills or time commitment, you can help neighbors, friends or family members stay in their homes or give support to people experiencing homelessness. That’s how to build strong, resilient communities.
Your effort helps others stay in their homes
There are countless ways to help; ask your neighbors what they need most so that your aid can make a real difference.
(Note: Personal finances can be an uncomfortable subject, so be sensitive to that when you ask if they’ve heard about the programs available to help them.)
- See the big picture: Your neighbors can access counseling and legal and financial assistance from NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit created by Congress. If they need help getting out of debt, they can choose from this list of Federally approved counselors. (Note: Even if a firm’s physical address is in a different state, it will give advice that’s correct for your state. The key items to check are the delivery methods: Do they offer advice in person, on the phone or only online?)
- Keep expenses on track: Sometimes the best thing you can do is give peace of mind by helping people take control of their budget. Offer to help by setting up spreadsheets for easy tracking, checking for online resources or just making a ledger by hand. You can help them calculate their housing wage, learn if they can save on their medications, connect to food sharing programs like Family-to-Family or access public benefit programs like SNAP. Know a family with children? Help build the kids’ money management skills!
- Shop smarter: There are ways to help your neighbors save money every day, whether it’s on utility costs or food. Encourage them to grow more of their own food and cook meals at home; maybe even share your cooking skills and recipes—then enjoy a meal together! When it’s time for a grocery trip, encourage smart shopping and share tips on nutrition and food storage. And if your neighbor has trouble getting to the store or the food pantry, offer to ride together.
- Help with housekeeping: You can lend a hand cleaning up around neighbors’ homes. And if they run into issues with landlords, encourage them to protect their rights with free or low-cost legal counsel.
Taking care of people who experience homelessness
It is devastating when someone loses his or her home—but it’s not the end of the road. And there’s plenty you can do to help.
- Give your time and energy: Find a local shelter, kitchen or housing service organization. Then, help assemble care packages, cook a meal, donate clothes or provide computers for accessing public services. Ask your local shelter for specific needs. Check with your local public housing authority or the nearest chapter of Habitat for Humanity to see what else you can do.
- Supply what they need: Try organizing a food drive, eyeglasses drive, coat drive or a cell phone drive. Contact your local coalition to get started.
- Empower your community: A great way to help is through activism. Assist with voter registration and education campaigns such as the nonpartisan “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” campaign. You can also make an impact by buying a local street newspaper, which helps the sellers take charge of their lives.
The easiest way to help people who are experiencing homelessness—even if you don’t have time or funds to share—is to reaffirm their humanity: Stop as you pass by, make eye contact, smile and share a conversation.
Opportunities to Help with Housing and Homelessness Near You
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Volunteer Opportunities in 20003
Help Students Succeed
Students who experience homelessness face more challenges than their peers, and there are more students in this category than ever before. In the 2013-14 school year, roughly 58,000 college students nationwide had no home address. And since the recession, the number of youth experiencing homelessness who are enrolled in public school has doubled to 1.36 million..
Organize a school supply drive in your community or check out the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth to learn more and get involved.