You don’t need to donate to a number of Denver’s homeless charities to help in the city’s ongoing homelessness crisis, although that would be a good place to start.
According to the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, the number of people who reported first-time homelessness doubled from 2020 to 2021, with a lack of affordable housing named the overwhelming culprit for the epidemic. But there are some ways you can help, and a number of local organizations are calling on volunteers as reinforcements. If you find you don’t have the time to volunteer, you can donate food and money, which they say goes a long way.
Here are six simple ways to provide some relief in the Denver homeless community:
- Give Food to the Food Bank of The Rockies
The organization’s website states that 60 percent of their distributed food comes from donations from food industry workers, farmers, retailers, wholesalers, and good samaritans. Because food banks largely rely on donations and outside contributions, this is a very direct way to feel the impact of your generosity.
The Food Bank of The Rockies states a one-dollar donation provides enough relief for four meals. Hosting a virtual food drive is an excellent way to raise money quickly that results in several more mouths fed in the city. Through mobile pantries, Food for Kids programs, and efforts like the Culturally Responsive Food Initiative, the food bank has impacted a number of different communities, thanks largely to donations of food and money. Be the reason the next hungry mouth gets fed with a small donation.
- Donate Clothes, Especially Shoes & Socks
Used clothes, particularly personal hygiene items and shoes and socks, are at the top of the list of most homeless shelters’ requested needs. Because the homeless are often left to their own two feet in the elements, shoes and socks break down quicker than other articles of clothing.
The next time you pack a load of clothes to donate to your local thrift store or Goodwill, consider taking them to a local homeless shelter instead; the impact will be more immediate and is more pressing. Other products in high demand include:
- Seasonal clothes like coats and gloves
- Dental hygiene products
- Pillow, sheets, and other bedding equipment
- Menstrual products
- Infant care products
- Sanitation products
- Volunteer Your Time
A number of local organizations say they require volunteers more than anything else. Spending an afternoon at The Denver Rescue Mission or the Volunteers of America (VOA) in Colorado can have a big impact on a number of human lives.
At the VOA, volunteers can sign up for a number of different initiatives, from delivering meals to home-bound seniors, to providing tutoring or childcare, to helping to renovate the organization’s facilities. According to their website, nearly 100,000 people were served last year, largely due to volunteer efforts. Consider volunteering to serve or prepare food for The Denver Rescue Mission as well.
- Vote Accordingly
Politicians can have a direct impact on the city and county’s focus on homelessness initiatives. Be aware of your local politicians’ stances, track record, and level of priority on homeslessness in your area and vote accordingly.
Tools like the Vote Smart Vote Easy Quiz can conveniently shed light on a candidate’s history, proposals, and stances on several different community issues, including homelessness. In the United States, there are more than 500,000 homeless individuals, who either have no shelter whatsoever, are in and out of temporary housing solutions, or sleep in a place not meant for habitation.
According to World Population Review, Colorado is currently ranked 13th in the United States in homelessness with at least 9,846 homeless individuals. Make sure to have a clear understanding of which local leaders make an emphasis on tackling homelessness in your area.
- Offer Professional Services for Free
If you find you can’t donate money or other resources, there are other ways to donate your time by offering you skills. For example, The Kind Cut in Los Angeles is a charitable organization that has already provided more than 4,000 free haircuts to homeless in L.A. and the surrounding areas. While haircuts are an easy way to contribute for free, many restaurants do pop-up events for feeding the homeless, and lawyers have been known to represent homeless individuals in pro bono cases.
If you’re a teacher, consider tutoring children and teenages struggling to get through school. Denver nonprofit Showers For All is a shower-on-the-go service for the homeless in the form of a mobile trailer that provides showers, bathroom services, and laundry services in and around the metro area. If you provide a quality professional service, consider doing it for free to provide aid of your own.
- Educate Yourself and Respond With Kindness
Breaking down the stigma surrounding homelessness can be difficult when it comes to swaying minds. Many believe homeless people need to simply “get a job”, or the money they would donate would go to drinking or a drug addiction.
Understanding the numbers behind America’s homelessness epidemic can paint a new picture for those ignorant of the problem. Below is a breakdown of some of Colorado’s homelessness numbers.
- Of the approximately 9,846 daily homeless people in Colorado in 2020, 665 were family households, 1,044 were veterans, 562 were unaccompanied young adults, and 2,954 were experiencing chronic homelessness
- Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2018-2019 school year shows that an estimated 21,560 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 1,043 students were unsheltered, 2,455 were in shelters, 2,179 were in hotels/motels, and 15,889 were doubled up.
Remember the vast majority of homeless individuals have found their situation as a result of no affordable housing, lower wages, a healthcare crisis, landlord bullying, or other systematic factors, as opposed to it being their fault they’re in that situation. HomeAid Colorado is here to help those in need! Be kind to homeless people, respond with a smile and a conversation, and find easy and practical ways to provide aid.