Writer’s Name: Andrew J. Rainey
Title: How can I make a difference?
Visiting shelters and volunteering at soup kitchens are one way in which a person can make a difference but there are many other ways you can help as well. Prepare sack lunches. In some communities, soup kitchens are only open in the evening or on Monday through Saturday. Find the shelter in your community who is trying to feed the homeless on the weekends and offer to make up a bunch of sack lunches. Sack lunches can be as simple as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, a piece of fresh fruit and a canned beverage.
Donate food for the homeless to a local food pantry. Many of the homeless come to emergency food pantries for nonperishable groceries they can tote in their backpacks. Instead of buying a case of five peanut butter tubs, why not buy some single serve food staples instead? Pudding cups, fruit cups, 4 oz. peanut butter jars, cheese & crackers, 3 oz. cans of tuna, and juice boxes are just a few examples of food that is easy for the homeless to carry. Bring your single portion food donations directly to a food pantry that serves the homeless. Your state's Food Bank network can give you the name of a food pantry that ministers to this need.
Donate your coats & sweaters to a shelter. When the weather gets cold, many of the homeless are without proper clothing. Instead of donating those old winter coats to a thrift store, why not donate to a local shelter instead? If you don't have an old coat to contribute, buy blankets, or a dozen mittens and knit hats instead. Call your police department or city hall for a listing of shelters in your area. Contribute to operating expenses. Shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks cost money. Find a shelter that needs some financial help to meet utility or food costs and commit to a set amount every month. If you don't like the idea of donating money, contribute a bulk food item instead.
Donate bus tokens. Many of the homeless have no transportation and rely on public transport to receive medical care or search for employment. Find a shelter or agency that distributes bus tokens to the homeless and offer to purchase a regular amount every month.
Save your old books and bring them to homeless shelters and food banks. Many food pantries especially like having books they can give children.
Hire the homeless. One of the biggest challenges the homeless face is finding work. Most employers, including fast food franchises, will not hire someone that doesn't have a phone or a call back number.
Do you own a business that could use casual labor? Register with a Casual Labor office in your area and hire the homeless for tasks such as grounds keeping and maintenance. Save your deli containers and find an organization such as a soup kitchen or community supper network that sends home leftovers to donate them to.