If you want to know more about the people who are homeless in your area and how to serve them, starting with those you see as you walk around campus is a good start. You may meet people without a home who hang around your campus often. They may frequent your school’s library, or you may see them while walking to class. However you come across each other, the first step to treating people well is showing them basic respect in your time together. Look people in the eye if you talk and ask them about their lives.
If you want to go beyond speaking with people you come across and be more intentional, working to fill the needs of local homeless shelters is an appropriate next step. Here are some tips on how to help the homeless in your community.
You can choose to donate to your local shelter. Many organizations will take monetary donations, but if you don’t have money to give, there are other options. You can ask your local shelter advocates if they need specific supplies. There are certain essentials that shelters need in the winter, such as socks and blankets, that you can look to give.
If you don’t have the money or items to give, donating your free Saturdays to shelter work once you’re done with homework. Volunteer to serve in their kitchen or prepare bedding. When you go in, be present with the people you interact with. You have the opportunity to encourage people—staff and residents—when volunteering. If you have a practical skill and can teach, consider offering to put on a class for cooking, financial planning, or whatever you’re skilled at.
Another way to help the homeless in your community is to get other people to join in. Organize a college outreach program that partners with a local shelter. If you want, you can even try to get area organizations involved in political advocacy for policies that affect the homeless. Any outreach to make people more aware of ways to help those in need strengthens a homeless shelter’s cause.