How To Support Your Local Homeless Shelter

helping at homeless shelter

Show Your Neighbors a Little Hospitality

Whether your local homeless shelter is well-established in your neighborhood or brand new to the area, the support of the local community can improve the health and happiness of its residents. Homeless shelters and the people who use them are accustomed to being ignored or loathed. Even a little hospitality from neighbors can go a long way.

This post contains several ideas of ways to help your local homeless shelter. It’s critical to maintain open communication with your local shelter. That way, you know what they need and can offer things that help, rather than burden them with items or services they can’t use.

Organize Your Neighbors

All the suggestions I’m about to outline will be much easier to achieve with the support of the other housed members of your neighborhood. You can delegate tasks according to ability. When the shelter has a big need, people can band together to accomplish more than one person. Put out feelers in your neighborhood to see who would be interested in helping the cause and how.

Once you’ve connected with willing participants – whether through social media or over the backyard fence – make sure to keep in touch with them so everyone can stay on the same page. A Facebook group or email list would be perfect for this.

Even if you only get a few people interested at first, you can still make a difference. You may find more people join as they get a little more familiar with the shelter and its residents. Many people have a distorted idea in their minds of what shelters are and who uses them. Once those misconceptions are dispelled, they’re a lot more willing to get involved.

Volunteer Your Time

Some shelters depend on volunteers for most daily operations, and some maintain a full staff that can handle every job. Contact your local shelter to see if they need volunteers to help prepare and serve food or complete other tasks. You may be able to volunteer for a special event or holiday. You can also try to book a day every week to come in and help out.

Donate Requested Items

Goods donations are one of the first things that spring to mind when thinking about helping the local homeless shelter. While these items can often be needed and appreciated, it’s not uncommon for shelters to end up with a stockpile of items that people think they need, unable to source the things they actually need.

Which items your local shelter needs may fluctuate depending on the time of year, recent large donations, or the people currently staying there. That’s why it’s critical to maintain open lines of communication between your local shelter and your neighborhood point person. This person can pass the information along to everyone in the neighborhood. Doing so ensures you meet the shelter’s needs without overloading them with donations they cannot use or store until needed.

Put Together Neighborhood Welcome Kits

Neighborhood welcome kits are a sweet, personalized way to welcome people and families to the area. Your kit could contain a local map showing nearby parks, churches, playgrounds, libraries, and other places of interest. You could include a gift card to a local store or restaurant and a welcoming card from your neighbors.

Even if the person receiving the kit is quite familiar with the area and already knows the information provided, it can still be nice to know that people in the neighborhood think of them and want them to feel welcome. Here are some other ideas.

Scope Out Free Family Events in the Neighborhood

If your local homeless shelter commonly serves families, it can be a real gift to residents to have an up-to-date list of the free activities for kids that are taking place in the local area. This allows parents to have fun with their kids without spending too much money or time planning everything out.

Parents in your neighborhood are likely already aware of these events. It shouldn’t take much for someone to compile and post a list for shelter residents to reference.

Offer Your Professional Services

Depending on the needs of your local homeless shelter and its residents, you may be able to volunteer your professional services to help. Grant writers, cooks, and handymen seem like a natural fit. But there may be a need for makeup artists, comedians, or graphic designers. Whatever skill you can offer, ask if the shelter can use it. The answer might surprise you!

Organize Special Events

If your local shelter is on board with the idea, families in your neighborhood can have a lot of fun putting together special events for shelter residents. Whether they’re holiday-themed or just because, the options are endless and could include:

  • Easter egg hunt for the kids
  • Secret Santa-type gift exchange pairing housed neighbors with a shelter resident
  • Simple popcorn and movie night
  • Even a karaoke night

Just Remember the Golden Rule

Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to get more involved with your local homeless shelter. Just make sure to (say it with me now) contact them first. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new idea you think is going to be great. However, there may be extenuating circumstances you haven’t thought of.

Make sure to keep the lines of communication between the shelter and the rest of the neighborhood clear at all times so you can ensure that what you’re doing to try and help is actually helping.

Kayla Robbins

Kayla Robbins


Kayla Robbins is a freelance writer who works with big-hearted brands and businesses. When she's not working, she enjoys knitting socks, rolling d20s, and binging episodes of The Great British Bake Off.

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