In the US, roughly 582,000 people are currently homeless. According to a HUD study published this year, this number represents a 2,000-person increase since 2020. During winter, it can be heartbreaking to see homeless individuals struggling in your community. Many people want to help the homeless, but they don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’ve served a meal or provided assistance to someone, but you’d like to get involved in a larger capacity.

It’s also worth noting that homelessness is more visible in some areas than others. 41% of people experiencing homelessness live in rural and suburban areas. In addition, 60% of homeless Americans find shelter in transitional housing programs and safe havens. You may not see homelessness in your area, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue. In your community, there are likely many who are experiencing homelessness and in need of help. The good news is, you can make a difference. Here are five realistic actions you can take to promote systemic change.

5 Ways to Help the Homeless in Your Community

1. Locate Homeless Shelters in Your Area

If you want to help the homeless in your community, the first thing you should do is locate shelters in your area. Seeking out homeless individuals and offering personal assistance isn’t always the best way to help. When you locate a shelter, you can find ways to support and strengthen these services in your community. You can find a comprehensive list of shelters in Maryland on the Homeless Shelters Directory website.

2. Donate and Volunteer Locally

Once as you’ve located local homeless shelters, you can assist them by donating directly. You could donate money or used clothes and other necessities. If possible, reach out to friends and family to help. Getting others involved is a great way to spread change in your community. You can also volunteer your time. Perhaps you have a skill that you could put to work, such as grassroots organizing or event planning. The majority of shelters would likely appreciate extra support.

3. Start a Fundraiser

Do you have a social media following or any type of online platform? If so, you’re already equipped to make a difference in your community. Using a site like GoFundMe, you can encourage your followers to donate. You could also encourage them to join you in participating in a volunteer event.

4. Support Local Politicians Who Fight Homelessness

Making significant changes on a systemic level often involves politics. Political leaders shape the policies that affect housing, funding and access to resources. Thinking about getting involved in politics can be overwhelming for most people, however. One great thing to do is research local candidates and understand their perspective on homelessness. What actions do they plan to take if elected? If you want to help the homeless on a larger scale, you can support politicians with the same priorities.

5. Practice Kindness When You Encounter Homeless Individuals

Volunteering, donating and being informed are all essential in the fight against homelessness. However, sometimes the simplest gestures can be the most impactful. Without even a smile or an eye contact from passersby, unhoused people often struggle to feel hopeful. Like every human being, they want to feel acknowledged and seen. Helping the homeless can be as simple as being kind. Take a moment to talk to those you come across and offer a few kind words. It takes thoughtful and persistent action to make progress, that much is true. But the importance of compassion on a personal level is equally important.

Do You Know Someone in Need of Assistance? Partner with Our Staff at Lead4Life, Inc. Today

At Lead4Life, we strive to empower every participant in our programs so that they may find their purpose, achieve their goals, and become poised, productive members of their community. We advocate for those in need and assist each and every individual by providing compassionate education and valuable resources like mental health tips so that they can make the very best decisions and develop important life, social, and competency skills. Visit our website or contact us at 240-499-8949 to learn more about helping the homeless in your area.

The Mentoring Initiative program acts as a resource for children, youth, and adults. Youth participants are met with support and guidance in order to be exposed to resources in the community and positive influences. Clinical mentoring offers individuals with the opportunity to meet with a skill-specific mentor. Parent mentoring services provides hands-on support to parents who need additional encouragement and assistance in order to address barriers they are experiencing. Read below to see how being a mentor has impacted their lives:

“Whether we know it or not, we all have been mentored in our life at one point or another. Being a mentor has impacted my life in several ways. It’s allowed me the opportunity to share knowledge, insight and offer sound advice. It has taught me to be more patient, humble, thankful and a good listener. When I invest my time and I see the results from my investment, it’s a rewarding feeling. The biggest impact is just realizing how much help is needed with mentoring our youth.” – Sherrod Stanard

“As a mentor I have come to realize the many different shades of mental struggles. Having a chance to work with such a diverse group I am continuing to learn new ways to process and assist others in times of need. It also brings about a sense of purpose, to be in position to listen and help those in unfortunate standing to smile and have hope.” – L Reed

“Being a mentor has impacted me to not only just see what I’ve been through, but to see what others have been through as well. Also, mentoring opened my eyes to a lot of things I never knew. I appreciate the opportunity to help others in need because things can get hard at times and sometimes all people need is someone to talk to.” – Cordell

“Being a mentor, with Lead4Life has had a great impact on my life. I’ve learned to deal with children from all walks of life at an early age. I honestly believe that God has given me a chance to help children. I lost my only child due to a car accident and it has had a huge impact on my life. I have always wanted to just help children in any way possible so that no parent goes through what I went through. I get to love on children even though they’re not mine. I’m very grateful to be a part of the children’s daily lives. They fill a very big void in my heart that they will never know is there. It feels good to know that children are counting on me to help them.” – Tara

“Being a mentor is one of the greatest things that I ever experienced in my life. It has helped me with my grandkids and help me learn how to deal with my daughter. Mentoring allows me to think about how I was brought up and how I can help other kids so they won’t make the same mistake I made in life. Some days I wonder why God did what he did for me to put me in this position to help someone else; I have been gifted. I was told many years ago if you go through life-giving and helping others, you have received the greatest gift of life! Being a mentor to me is the greatest thing I ever did in life; my soul is being fed.” – Lorenzo A

“Working with Lead4Life as a mentor has enlightened my awareness of a lot of the struggles that our displaced youth endure day in and day out. Originally, I thought the job would be a walk in the park because my perception was that of talking, helping, and guiding youth that was raised similar to the way I was. Not knowing that most of the youth have suffered a tremendous amount of trauma and that you may be the difference between them succeeding and failing. I realized that being a mentor requires a structured environment with goals and a lot of LOVE. You have to be the example of what you want the youth to be, and that isn’t always easy. The most important thing I learned from the Director….is to “Never Give Up” on them. With that being said my outlook on the youth has changed and made me more empathetic to their needs.” – Bryan C

“Being a mentor has given me an opportunity to be proud of myself for giving guidance, support, and love to mentees or persons who don’t really know what that feels like to be loved. It’s also rewarding to provide mentees with tools to help them become a better version of themselves.” – D’Mia Fitzhugh