If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the tens of millions of people who have been self-isolating at home for the past few weeks. This “new normal” has already changed the way we work and live; and with so much turmoil in the world, many people are asking how they can give back to help the people most impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.
One group being hit particularly hard by COVID-19 is America’s homeless population. At a time where people are being asked to “stay at home,” hundreds of thousands of people in our country don’t have a home to go back to. And with millions of layoffs across the country already, we’re at risk of seeing people lose their homes due to an inability to pay their rent or mortgage.
This is a moment for us to come together and help people who need it. Here are three things you can do to help the homeless while sheltered at home.
1. Donate or start a fundraiser for a shelter in your community
Shelters are on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis, and many are dealing with a lack of funding and volunteers. On top of this, the “stay-at-home” order is causing an increased demand for shelter beds. Workers at these organizations are putting in long hours to make sure that everyone has a roof over their head.
You can help. Find a homeless shelter in your community, get in contact with them, and ask them what they need. Many will be looking for food donations, cleaning supplies, or just plain cash to pay their operating expenses. One thing you can do while stuck at home is start a Facebook fundraiser for a shelter near you.
2. Get in touch with your elected officials
Here at the Partnership for Strong Communities, much of the work we do is legislative advocacy –interacting with our elected officials to make sure everyone has a right to safe, stable affordable housing in their community. (If you agree, make sure to sign up for our email updates!)
While doing legislative advocacy, I’ve learned that calling and emailing your representatives can make a huge difference, both at the local and national level. Just last week, the Congressional stimulus package included over $12 billion to help homelessness and help struggling families – after housing advocates and concerned residents like yourself emailed their elected officials.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition and National Alliance to End Homelessness are putting out regular action alerts to ensure that any federal response to COVID-19 contains resources for housing and homelessness. I completed one of these action alerts last week – it took just 10 minutes to email my representatives, and it felt good to do something to help in this time of uncertainty. I encourage you to sign up for emails from these groups, and to seek out additional organizations in your own states and communities.
3. Raise awareness
Social media is a powerful tool for mobilizing people around a cause – and with millions of Americans sheltering in place, many are turning to social media to stay connected. When you send an email to your representatives, or read an article that moves you, make sure to share it on your social media feed. It may resonate with more people than you would think!
On the Partnership’s Facebook and Twitter platforms, we’ve been sharing stories from the people on the frontlines of COVID-19. One tip: People want to know how they can help, but they also want to hear stories of goodness and kindness. They want to be informed, but not overwhelmed – this is certainly a time of great stress and uncertainty for many of us. Make sure to share some good news with the bad.
During hard times like these, a shared sense of purpose can help alleviate the isolation that many of us are feeling. Helping the most vulnerable people in your community is a worthwhile goal – and one that you can pursue while sheltering in place. With determination and kindness, we can get through this together.
Charlie Shaddox is Communications Manager for Partnership for Strong Communities.