Hearing all the statistics and reading the numerous infographics about homelessness can be overwhelming. Yes, there are over 7,000 people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, but what can we as a community do to reduce that number? What can you do to help?
Homelessness in San Francisco has been and continues to be, a visible problem, one that has troubled politicians, policy makers, and residents alike. An issue like this one will not be solved by one person and certainly not right away. But if we work as a community, each doing our part, we can start to take the step in the right direction.
While many people are saddened and troubled by the homelessness crisis and want to help, few “actually take action” to do so. Why is that? Because homelessness can often seem too big of an issue for us to tackle as individuals. Maybe even mention how some people might feel as though it isn’t their problem because they themselves aren’t homeless.
However, there are in fact several ways you can contribute to reducing homelessness and helping those that experience it.
Donating money is always a good and convenient way to support a cause, but some people may not have spare money to donate. Further, donating money can sometimes feel impersonal and can often be ambiguous, as the donor does not know where their money is going.
If you cannot or do not want to donate money, you can make an in-kind donation– a non-cash gift made to a non-profit organization. Many organizations in the Bay Area accept donations such as clothing, toiletries, food, and other essentials.
For instance, Bay Area Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization based in Richmond, has a Food and Pantry Distribution Center where you can donate not only food but also clothing, furniture, and other household items.
Additionally, organizations often have wish lists or items they recommend you donate. Oakland Elizabeth House, a transitional residential program for women and children who have experienced homelessness, poverty, addiction, or domestic violence, conveniently provides an Amazon Wish List for people to choose items from to buy for the residents of the house. Items on the list include everyday essentials such as bedding, body wash, and cooking ware.
Ultimately, donating to organizations whether it be money or other items, is a great and easy way to support those experiencing homelessness, as well as the programs.
Another way to contribute to helping those experiencing homelessness is by donating your time. Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding efforts, as you can see your work visibly paying off. In the Bay Area, there are countless opportunities to volunteer, both face-to-face and behind the scenes.
CityTeam, a national organization that helps community members who need hot meals, groceries, housing, and restorative programs, offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. For instance, you can prepare and serve meals to the community members, or you can pack bags with meals to be handed out. CityTeam has three locations in the Bay Area: San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco.
The Alameda County Community Food Bank is another great organization that supports those experiencing homelessness. You have many volunteers in activities that you are able to choose from, such as distributing food, bagging, and sorting produce, or even loading vehicles for distribution.
By volunteering, you are supporting those experiencing homelessness both in a material sense and a moral one by providing them with food and your time. Having someone who wants to help you can go a long way. Even mentioning how helping those that are homeless is a good, rewarding task again.
You can always volunteer by yourself, but it is also a great activity to do with a group of friends. The more the merrier!
Lastly, using your voice and voting can be one of the most impactful ways to make a change and support people experiencing homelessness. The homelessness crisis is ultimately a byproduct of our failing socio-political system, which is why it is so important to do your part when it comes to change.
Paying attention to local elections and propositions will help you establish your stance and make your vote count. Further, you can follow the actions and campaigns of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing as well as the mayor’s initiatives.
Homelessness may seem like an insurmountable issue, but if we each do our part and be empathetic humans, we can solve this issue one step at a time.