As the economy tightens, many of the government funding sources for homeless programs have been cut drastically or eliminated completely. At the same time, charitable giving that has funded many other programs for the homeless has also taken a dive. People who have given money in the past are simply unable to continue to give at the same level. If you are in this position, where you respect a particular program but your charitable funds have dropped sharply, why not become one of the homeless volunteers that are keeping the homeless programs going.
Volunteering allows you to make a personal and direct impact on the lives of others. Volunteering is not something you should do lightly. When you are volunteering to help people who are homeless, you need to have an understanding of some of the issues that are faced daily by the homeless. You also need to be aware that you won’t be able to do everything for everyone you meet. You should make sure that the things you do are wanted, and not forced on others. If you are not certain where you can be of help, work with a formal organization. Most of them are happy to get any one they can find to assist in the work that needs to be done.
There are always ways to help others. If you prefer working one on one, make sure you are qualified to do what you are trying to do. Being a good listener doesn’t make you qualified to treat homeless people with emotional problems. With some people of this sort, you can end up getting sucked into a maelstrom of emotions, denial, anger and other problems that you are not equipped to handle. You can, however, volunteer to serve food in the soup kitchen and do intake work for clients who need further services and assistance.
Some volunteers make a point of getting to know the homeless on a personal level. You might befriend a young person if you can do so without sounding preachy. Working in a homeless shelter might mean cleaning, cooking or other physical labor. The nice thing about this volunteer style is that you don’t need training or college classes to be of help. Maybe you can volunteer to help construct or remodel housing so that it can be used as an expended homeless shelter facility. Painting walls and sanding floors can be a labor of love when you are doing it to give a homeless mother a nice place to live.
Volunteering to provide medical or dental assistance to homeless people is a major investment in time and resources. Dentists and physicians earn a great deal of money in normal practice. To volunteer to assist those who are ill, sometimes malnourished and with teeth and gums that may be showing the effects of years of neglect. Cleaning the teeth and taking care of cavities will reduce the chances of toothache in the future. Medical doctors can do regular checkups to determine if there are nutritional problems or if drugs and alcohol have caused serious health problems.
If you have organizational skills, you can put those to work in helping the homeless. Some people have been able to mobilize others to set up homeless shelters and equip them with necessary utensils, furniture and linens. You may organize a drive to collect food, bedding or cooking utensils for a shelter home. You can find people who are willing to help personally or financially. If you can handle details, volunteer to keep track of the inventory, or do the accounting for a local homeless shelter. If your local food bank needs inventory control, you can be of help there.
Volunteering to provide financial aid is a less direct means of helping than serving soup at the shelter. Some people would rather write a check than to do the one-on-one volunteering. If you are willing to let someone else run the program and make decisions about how the donations will be spent, financial contributions are much in need. Financial management of funds that entrusted to your homeless shelter or agency is critically important. You should be prudent and with strict determination to do the most you can with the money you have.
Homeless volunteers usually chooses that role because they have an overwhelming need to make a difference in the lives of others. Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself. Once a person who learns the joy of giving, it’s hard to back off from a giving lifestyle.