Ways To Support Downtown's Homeless This Holiday Season
December 16, 2016 by Fara Illich
Homelessness and poverty exist year-round, but during the holidays, people tend to think about it the most and want to give back. The safety net of nonprofit and government organizations serving this vulnerable population greatly depend on donations and volunteers — but encourage the community to give responsibly.
A common occurrence this time of year is “street feeding,” or dropping off food, typically near the Human Services Campus just west of downtown. While this simple act is incredibly thoughtful and generous, it can sometimes lead to unintended consequences. According to city officials, it often duplicates meal services already taking place in the area, and leaves behind waste and even health hazards.
Instead of doing it alone, organizations like Andre House suggest getting plugged into well-established meal programs already underway, or donating care packages of other high-need items. Check out the full list here.
There’s also a host of downtown food banks and charities serving the unemployed, working poor, in addition to the homeless — and those organizations are in dire need of nonperishable food and other items.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a few ideas on where to donate and how to volunteer locally this season:
A collaboration of multiple private, public and faith-based organizations in one central footprint, providing a host of wrap-around services for homeless adults. Volunteer opportunities are available across campus.
-Daily meal service
-Laundry, showers & clothes
-Day shelter, housing & supportive services
-Dental health & hygiene
-Housing, legal & supportive services
-Post office & bag storage
-Mental health & substance abuse services
-Daily meal service
-Ministry & counseling
-Job development & life skills training
-Professional clothing, resume writing, etc.
-Behavioral and healthcare services
-Shelter and daily meals
MANA House (Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force) provides transitional housing for veterans in-need, providing many vital services including job search, Veteran Administration (VA) hospital enrollment, education programs (like GED), housing assistance, transportation and much more. Donation and volunteer opportunities can be found online.
Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI) offers a host of behavioral and healthcare programs for the homeless, with a focus on substance abuse treatment. In addition to outreach, education and supportive services, CBI provides pick up and transportation to the inpatient detox center on Van Buren Street. It’s a safe space where individuals can work toward recovery, free of charge. Donations are accepted online.
In addition to providing food boxes for individuals and families in-need, Friendly House provides toiletries, rental assistance, workforce development, English language classes and a host of other programs and services aimed at promoting self-sufficiency. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the above address and tax deductible monetary donations are accepted online.
After a period of incarceration, sometimes connections with loved ones are lost and criminal records can make securing a job and home very challenging. Hope’s Crossing provides a host of stabilization services to women post incarceration including short-term and long-term food support, transportation, referrals for child care and a host of other programs. Volunteers and donations are always needed.
The ICM Food and Clothing Bank helps meet the basic needs of more than 100 families struggling with poverty and homelessness every day, six days a week. In-kind donations of food, clothing and material goods are accepted until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the back parking lot, just south of the building at Ninth Avenue. There are also numerous volunteer positions available.
The Human Services Campus only serves adults, so downtown’s homeless youth and teens are referred to the Tumbleweed center in midtown, which provides emergency shelter, showers, laundry self-service, food and access to long-term support services. Donations are accepted online and volunteers are needed.
Located east of downtown near the airport, UMOM provides shelter, transitional and permanent housing for women and families, in addition to supportive services like medical care and child care. Donations are accepted online and there’s a host of volunteer opportunities available.