5 Ways to Help the Homeless in 2011

Dec 21, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
Some fresh fruit, warm soup and bread can make someone&39;s day. Donate today. (Photo: Jake Warga)

In 2011, statisticians expect 3.5 million Americans will spend some time homeless. But there are many ways—big and small—that you can give a little hope to someone in need.

Here are five ways to ease the suffering in 2011.

1. Volunteer to Help Homeless Veterans

On any given night, 131,000 veterans are homeless. Many of the former soldiers suffer from PTSD, and the number of homeless vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise.

Volunteer as a mentor, legal aide or counselor at your local veteran service provider.

2. Tutor a Homeless Child

Across the world, 150 million children are living on the streets. In the U.S. alone, 1.5 million children go homeless each year. Homeless children change schools often, making it easy to fall behind. Each day a child is on the street decreases his or her chances of graduation.

If you're low on funds but have a lot of heart, you can make a difference by tutoring homeless children in your community. School on Wheels in Los Angeles is a great program, but if you don't live near L.A., you can call your local shelter to find a similar program near you.

3. Help Make Waterproof Coats That Moonlight as Sleeping Bags for the Homeless

In Detroit, 18,000 people are homeless. Veronika Scott had an idea to keep them warm on those cold Michigan nights. She created an Elements S[urvival] coat that is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night.

As part of her Empowerment Plan, the coat is made by homeless workers with the hope they will be paid, fed and housed to create these coats for others.

The idea is "jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost." The goal is to "empower, employ, educate, and instill pride."

4. Donate Goods or Volunteer at a Local Food Bank

Hunger is a reality for 1 in 6 Americans. Many struggling families have to pass up one or more meals per day. But you can do a lot by donating a little—time serving your community at a local food bank, or goods to those in need.

5. Light a Candle for Homeless Youth

Covenant House serves 55,000 homeless children each year. The organization has crisis centers across the country for runaway and throwaway minors who are in desperate need of a home. Covenant House also provides job training, parenting classes and educational programs.

Light a virtual candle and bring attention to the plight of homeless youth around the world.

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