Homeless People Volunteering to Help Homeless People in New York City

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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.


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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.

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