Homeless People Volunteering to Help Homeless People in New York City

Featured Video Play Icon

Brian spends six days a week volunteering to help homeless people in New York City. Brian volunteers with City Relief’s mobile outreach on four of those days, a modified bus providing food and services at locations around Manhattan, Harlem, and the Bronx. Brian also lives in a homeless shelter.

Emmanual is a homeless veteran. He says it’s an honor to help other homeless people adding, “anyone can fall into a situation like this.” Emmanual lived in a homeless shelter for two months. Emmanual told us he was moving into a veteran’s shelter the day we visited.

People housed and unhoused need a purpose. By the time someone hits the streets, years of trauma and abuse have taken their toll. Homelessness is often lonely. Homeless people face long periods of isolation. Even after being placed in housing, people need tangible social interaction and a reason to get up in the morning.

City Relief engages homeless people they serve to help others. People are provided a mobile phone and a MetroCard to get to outreach locations and around the city.

Brian started using hard drugs at 35. He is now 57. Brian gives credit to Josiah Haken, City Relief’s CEO, for helping him stay sober. While housing is needed to end homelessness, City Relief works to fill the gaps in the safety net. NYC’s shelters are often horrible places. Volunteer programs that engage homeless people provide more than basic needs; they help give people a purpose.

To learn more about City Relief, please visit cityrelief.org

Invisible Stories is a mini-doc series that goes beyond the rhetoric, statistics, political debates, and limitations of social services to examine poverty in America via a medium that audiences of all ages understand and can’t ignore.

IP 19 Logo Icon crop

Invisible People


We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Until then, we strive to be the most trusted source for homelessness news, education and advocacy.

Related Topics

Your support can create amazing change

Join the campaign to end homelessness by supporting the only newsroom focused solely on the topic of homelessness. Our original reporting — posted five to seven days a week — can also be found on Apple News and Google News. Through storytelling, education, news, and advocacy, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.

Invisible People is a nonprofit organization. We rely on the support of friends like you — people who understand that well-written, carefully researched stories can change minds about this issue. And that’s what leads to true transformation and policy change. Our writers have their fingers on the pulse of homeless communities. Many are formerly or currently homeless themselves. They are the real experts, passionate about ending homelessness. Your support helps us tell the true story of this crisis and solutions that will end it. Your donations help make history by telling the real story of homelessness to inspire tangible actions to end it.

Your donation, big or small, will help bring real change.


Get the Invisible People newsletter


Where Will She Go? Homeless Woman's Heartbreaking Struggle.


Homeless Veteran's ID Taken by Police Stripped of Access to Shelter


Homeless Man Across from the White House


A Homeless Man's Struggle for Survival in San Diego



sanctioned encampments are no better than unsanctioned encampments

Are Municipalities Turning to Sanctioned Encampments to Get Around Martin v. Boise?

climate change and the impact on unsheltered homeless veterans

Unsheltered Homeless Veterans in California Exposed to Deadly Floods and More

United Nations pushes back on criminalization of homelessness in the US

Criminalization of Homelessness Is a ‘Rampant’ Problem, Advocates Tell U.N.

Social workers, homeless service workers

Homeless Service Workers Need Significant Pay Raises to Afford Housing

Get the Invisible People newsletter