The San Francisco Chronicle together with a coalition of other San Francisco media outlets recently led a media blitz addressing the ever-present problem of homelessness in the Bay Area. The campaign immediately went viral in print and online, lighting up headlines in national newspapers and inspiring other communities across the U.S. to redouble their efforts in the search for solutions.
Homelessness is a human issue that affects all segments of society, coast to coast, urban, rural, and everything in between. Homeless Americans are not the fictional too-lazy-to-work deadbeats and dangerous addicts of TV and movies: They’re our mothers, sons, spouses, widows, teachers, soldiers, employees, and community members; and indeed many houseless men and women are members of communities who are demonstrably more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion.
In the midst of our renewed national outrage over the more than half a million men and women who sleep on the streets each night, let’s applaud the big names like United Way and the National Coalition for the Homeless for their tireless efforts to bring housing security to every American.
But let’s also remember the little guys, those defying their much humbler budgets and capacities to serve the groups most at risk of becoming homeless in the local communities we all call home across the country.
Here are five of those organizations.
Project Homeless Connect
In the city where the homelessness epidemic regularly makes headlines, Project Homeless Connect is striving to provide basic services and the overlooked necessities of daily life to the women and men of San Francisco living life without a roof over their heads.
Of the many organizations working to combat homelessness in the Bay Area, Project Homeless Connect stands out for its attention to human detail. Striving to offer “holistic care in a dignified setting,” PHC goes beyond the standard housing and job training services to offer everything from haircuts, to wheelchair repairs, to providing people with the opportunity to call friends and loved ones on the phone. Neglected health and mistreatment of the body and the emotions are obstacles to finding employment and stability, and PHC’s success shows that paying attention to these details pays off.
Lost-n-Found Youth in Atlanta, Georgia is working to rescue the hearts and lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths who together make up 40% of the nation’s homeless youth population.
Their 24-hour hotline is available to youths in all situations, and their six-bed, 90-day housing facility does its best to ease LGBT adolescents’ transition as they cope with fleeing or being forced out of their homes, placing teens and young adults in host homes until they’re able to support themselves. Alongside these services, Lost-n-Found works to provide clothing and food for young people stuck on the street, as well as mental health counseling and assistance recovering vital documents like birth certificates and ID cards that are too often withheld by families and present obstacles to gaining employment.
Lost-n-Found is currently seeking to triple their transitional housing capacity in order to serve more of the young people who find themselves feeling lost and discarded in the streets. You can make a donation to the cause; or if you live in the Atlanta area, volunteer a few hours of your time to empower young people and assure them that it does get better.
5 Star Veterans Center
Since 2012, the Five Star Veterans Center has been working to get homeless veterans in the Jacksonville, Florida area “mentally and physically healthy enough to return to work, reunite with families, and regain control of their own lives.”
Many veterans return from deployment to find insufficient healthcare structures in place for issues like PTSD and the physical disabilities that often prevented them from finding employment. Five Star Veterans Center seeks to combat this with its two residence programs: the Passport to Independence program and a mental health counseling initiative, both laid out in detail on their website. Their approach seeks to provide our veterans with safe housing, meals, and assistance obtaining VA benefits and medical care while also offering mental health and job training services to help them to return to work.
Five Star Veterans Center is a young organization funded primarily by individual donations, which you can make here. Jacksonville area residents can also volunteer their time in roles ranging from fundraising to computer assistance.
A Child’s Place
Too often, children in families experiencing homelessness watch their grades plummet and eventually drop out of school, lacking the stable support structure necessary for learning and a good education. A Child’s Place wants to change that reality for children in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.
A Child’s Place’s mission is “to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education,” seeing this as one of the best intervention points for making real strides against homelessness. To make this investment in their community, the organization provides food, school supplies, and other necessities to minimize interruptions to the child’s life in the midst of an experience with homelessness, while also working with families to help them gain employment and housing.
Michigan Ability Partners
Up to a quarter of men, women, and children living on the streets are mentally or physically disabled, left to struggle untreated or undiagnosed on sidewalks and back alleys. Michigan Ability Partners is working to support this population in southeast Michigan by creating opportunities for disabled persons and other at-risk groups like veterans in the area.
Aside from traditional housing support and services, MAP offers services like its Transitional Work Program and social enterprise work initiatives, which provide the men and women they work with with an income while building the crucial work experience that many have never had the opportunity to gain. MAP also maintains a vocational program to assist with job placement, and permanent supported housing to disabled persons struggling to escape chronic homelessness.
Interested in learning more about homelessness in the United States and what you can do about it? Take a few minutes to read up on the 10 most essential stories from the San Francisco media blitz and what’s been learned from them. You can also take a hands-on approach by making homeless helper bags, or browse through the national directory of organizations working against homelessness to find out how you can start making an impact in your home community.