giving

Organizations like the Homeless Alliance work to end homelessness and have held several charity and service events to help those in need.

While many people say it is bad to be alone for the holidays, there is something more prevalent to be concerned about.

Given the ever-present impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an economic downturn that marked the latter end of 2020, the homeless rates in the United States have only been increasing.

“I can’t give you numbers on how much homelessness has increased during the pandemic, but we know it has increased,” Marcia Fudge, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said earlier this year in a briefing at the White House.

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, there are about 3.5 million Americans that experience homelessness every year. This becomes a bigger issue during the holiday season, namely due to the weather conditions. If someone is homeless, there is a chance that they do not have access to adequate clothing to resist the colder temperatures that the later months of the year bring.

With all of that in mind, the question then becomes what can people that are more fortunate do to help this staggering number of Americans. Various groups at IUP, like the Cook Honors College (CHC), have held drives for essential items to donate to help people that are homeless or are living in shelters.

Actions like that may not seem very big but putting it in the larger perspective shows the benefit and how much drives and donations really do help.

Many homeless shelters in the United States subsist almost entirely on donations of money or goods. Since they make no money from housing people, it is imperative that they receive donations in order to stay open to help people.

Generally speaking, there are certain items that are always in high demand for shelters. Stuff like blankets, socks, shoes and general hygiene products are some of the biggest ones that are regularly needed.

In addition to those, money and non-perishable food items are also widely accepted by many shelters. After all, one of the biggest traditions during the holiday season is a large meal with family, something that people who are homeless cannot afford to do. Providing food to shelters or to people in need directly help them to not go hungry over the holidays.

There are several organizations and groups that make it their mission to help people that are less fortunate, like the Project Linus that gives blankets to people that are in need or the well-known Salvation Army.

While donations are crucial to aiding the homeless population, there are other ways that they can be helped that are not explicitly donations of money or goods. For example, educating other more fortunate people is a big step.

There is a stigma in the United States among a lot of people that those who are homeless were irresponsible or are addicts. Those mindsets only hurt the homeless population. It is important for everyone to be aware that there is often a lot of factors that go into someone having to be homeless. After all, nobody strives to be without a place to live.

According to shelterstoshutters.org, most of the homeless people in the United States have become homeless due to things like job loss, divorce or domestic abuse. Those reasons are far from the stigmatized reasons that are often said by people that are prejudiced against homeless people, like undiagnosed mental health issues or substance abuse problems that would make them a “lost cause.”

It is important to break the stigmas that surround being homeless. Those people did not choose the life that they have to lead.

To take this into consideration, additional information about how to help the homeless population can be found by doing some research or by getting in contact with a local shelter or group. Often times, most urban areas have a good number of shelters that will accept donations and aid from anyone willing to give it.

For instance, there are more than 20 different groups active in Pittsburgh that will accept donations from the local population. This is a trend that naturally progresses for other areas and cities across the United States.

So, be sure to enjoy the holidays, but at the same time try to find shelters or organizations to make donations to. Sometimes even the smallest donation can have a massively positive impact on the life of someone who is less fortunate. If you do donate, be sure to call ahead to make sure the shelter or group you are supporting will be able to accept the goods you have to give.

The holidays are about giving and being grateful for family and friends, so try to give to others that desperately need it. You never know how much a donation can change someone’s life, especially if they are in desperate need of assistance.

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