A few days ago, I had the opportunity to participate with a group of volunteers from a local church. We visited an area park where several homeless men and women take refuge.
This particular group of volunteers were all singers, so in addition to giving out food and water, we also gave those willing to listen an outdoor concert. The men and women we had the privilege of singing for couldn’t have been more openhearted and welcoming.
The experience was a stark reminder that there many people who are in need of just the basics of life: food and shelter.
Homelessness can occur for many reasons, but typically, according to National Alliance to End Homelessness, families experience homelessness due to an unexpected financial crisis, such as a medical emergency, an auto accident, or a death in the family.
These crises obstruct individuals and families from being able to keep housing. These life altering circumstances can happen to anyone.
Recent statistics from the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows that nearly 600,000 people are homeless on a given night in the U.S. Of that number over 200,000 are people in families and nearly 50,000 or 8 percent are veterans.
And for those who do obtain shelter, food insecurity remains a substantial problem. According to Feeding America, in 2015 42 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29 million adults and 13 million children.
In all, nearly 22 million U.S. households experienced some type of food insecurity. And per the Supplemental Poverty Measure, nearly 46 million people are living in poverty in the U.S.
These statistics are sobering and unfortunately they are a reality. In our day-to-day lives we may sometimes inadvertently forget about the daily struggles in humanity for the basic needs of food and shelter within a few short miles of our front door.
If you feel compelled to make a difference, please review these actions that can be taken today and year-round:
For a list of 35 ways to help the homeless, please read this list from JustGive.org.
To join the fight against homelessness, consider donating your money or time to a local charitable organization. GuideStar, the world’s largest information source on nonprofit organizations, can steer you in the right direction, please visit: www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx.
Another online source is Charity Navigator, which is the nation’s largest assessor of charities. They offer a rating profile of your charity of interest, giving an overall score and rating on the charity’s financial and accountability & transparency standing. For more information, please visit: www.charitynavigator.org/
The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, is another great source, that allows givers to find BBB accredited charities through an online search engine. For more information, please visit: www.give.org/.
To join the fight against hunger, consider donating your money or time to your local food bank, food pantry or soup kitchen. Feeding America offers resources that guide willing individuals to local volunteer opportunities. Please visit this website for more details: www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/.
With Thanksgiving, just a day away, the holidays are a good reminder that those who have the resources and inclination can make a positive impact, not just during this time but throughout the year as well.
In the U.S., we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday shopping season, but while doing your holiday shopping also remember #GivingTuesday.
#GivingTuesday takes place on November 29, 2016. The premise of #GivingTuesday is for volunteers to help others through the gift of their time, donations, and their voice. For more information, please visit: www.givingtuesday.org/.
In whichever way you decide to help, please remember to pay it forward and stay involved. You are always needed.
Happy Thanksgiving and God bless,
Ms. Dakar is the author of The Busy Person’s Guide to Personal Finance, a primer to help consumers manage their finances so they can build a substantial nest-egg. She also conducts personal finance seminars where she provides concepts to attain overall financial health.