THE MANY FACES OF HOMELESSNESS: HOW YOU CAN HELP

blog_title_image_homelessnessKnowing how to help a homeless person can sometimes feel difficult, confusing and overwhelming. The dollar you give might be used to buy drugs or alcohol. Even offering food can be a problem – imagine handing an apple to a homeless man and then discovering he has no teeth.

Just as there are many reasons people become homeless, there are also many ways to help. Understanding the leading causes of homelessness is often the best way to learn what the homeless need and how you can make a positive difference in their lives.

The chronically homeless, who often struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues, need a safe and stable living environment where they can get counseling and health care. To help them, consider volunteering at a local shelter or halfway house that provides longer-term housing. Donating clean towels, pillows and blankets can also help create a comfortable and safe living environment.

The majority of homeless youth bw_homeless_teens_21461332have been kicked out of their homes or abandoned by parents or guardians. Others who left on their own accord have suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their families. For many, trusting another adult or authority figure can be difficult. One of the best ways to help is to simply ask them what they need. Maybe it’s a hot meal, a warm coat or a clean pair of socks; or maybe it’s information on how to get into foster care, enroll in a drug and alcohol detox program or register for the GED. Taking the time to listen to their needs, and to follow through, can go a long way in helping them regain their trust in others and get off the streets.

imm needs housing homelessFor many veterans, physical disability, mental anguish and post-traumatic stress can make readjusting to civilian life very difficult. This can lead to drug and alcohol addiction, the inability to hold down a steady job and homelessness. Because many veterans have very specific needs to help them get back on their feet—job placement services, medical services, housing assistance, counseling—there are numerous ways to get involved. Consider donating your time or money to organizations which help homeless vets:

While we need to address the problem of homelessness as a whole, the more we can understand each person’s individual circumstances, the more we can help. Before making assumptions or judgments, take the time to ask some questions and do a little research. It can make all the difference.

The Face(s) of Homelessness

  • Number of homeless in the United States: 610,042
  • Number of chronic homeless: 109,132 (18%)
  • Number of homeless youth under 18: 380,000
  • Number of homeless veterans: 57,849 (9%)

For more charities helping the homeless with shelter, counseling services and job training.

-Amelia Glynn, Marketing Contractor

Hunger and Food Justice: Community Building for Food Equality

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Hunger: it’s a daunting problem the world over. Even though I was eager to research and write on this topic, when I started to dig into it, I got more and more overwhelmed with how broad and profound the issue … Continue reading

Help Colorado Flood Victims Recover

Starting on September 9, the state of Colorado received a huge amount of rain, causing intense flooding and massive amounts of damage. Flood waters cover almost 200 miles from North to South and affect 17 counties. A state of emergency was declared, authorizing federal search and rescue teams, and supplies be sent to the area. The devastation, though, is far-reaching:

  • Nearly 19,000 homes were damaged, and more than 15,000 were destroyed.
  • 1,750 people and 300 pets were rescued by air and ground. Six people were killed.
  • 5,250 gallons of crude oil spilled into the South Platte River when storage tanks in Milliken were damaged.
  • 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges were destroyed.

Quick repairs are absolutely critical, since winter weather will make highway work far more difficult. Please donate now to organizations helping Colorado recover:

    • American Red Crosssupplying food, shelter, and relief items such as clean up kits, rakes, tarps, shovels, flashlights, gloves, coolers, comfort kits, and insect repellant.
    • Foothills United Way – established the ‘Foothills Flood Relief Fund’ to provide needed health and human services to those affected by the flooding in Boulder and Broomfield counties.
    • Salvation Army – deploying mobile canteens, and is providing hundreds of thousands of meals to displaced people.
    • Save the Children – working with American Red Cross to create “Child-Friendly Spaces” in evacuation centers to ease the trauma on children.
    • Weld County Humane Society - providing assistance to the more than 300 displaced pets rescued by air and ground.

This local tragedy stirs deep emotion

I’ve been having great difficulty dealing with the horror that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My kids are often in Sandy Hook for sports and other activities, and I have spent many weekends on the sidelines of the soccer fields directly behind the school.

Holiday AngelNewtown is almost identical to my town of Weston, Connecticut, so it is very hard for me to let go of the horror by rationalizing to myself that it is far away or such a different type of community than my own. This trauma is deeper for all of us because the reality is that this could have happened anywhere and to any of us. That is what is most profoundly frightening about this event.

I have a 7 year old who is always curious, and he came home from school on Friday asking a lot of questions. After asking all the main questions, he paused and asked, “How did the kids know what to do when their teacher died?” He was obviously putting himself directly into that situation. I am very sad he has to think about these things at such an early age. As he was going to bed that night he asked, “Does God make these bad people?” I had to explain that everyday, we all wake up and have to make many decisions that can make us “good” or “bad” for that moment.

Every night now when I put him to bed, I first get a chill of realization that he could have been in that 1st grade classroom, and then I give a grateful hug that he is still here to tuck in.

It is almost impossible to comprehend the depth of tragedy and anguish that will always be a part of the Newtown community. Life is so precious—and at the same time, it can be unfair and unpredictable.

While our hearts are broken for the victims and all of those affected by this senseless tragedy,  the healing process must begin. There are many nonprofits that are currently supporting the town with: cleaning up the old school, setting up the new school, providing health services to residents in the community, supporting the firefighters, supplying aid for the memorial services, and offering ongoing activities to help the kids heal. To find out more and how to help Newtown, here’s an article that gives several ways you can be supportive.

A few charities providing the community with services that you can donate to:

kindnessMy personal belief is that we all must put a little bit of goodness back into the world and do what we can to overcome the horror by being kind to those around us. In addition to helping Newtown directly, random acts of kindness should be part of our daily routine to spread goodness. More than something we do in response to Ann Curry’s tweet…something we make part of our everyday life.

—Kendall Webb, Executive Director

Give now to help Japan’s survivors

Living on the West Coast where earthquakes are a normal part of growing up, I imagine what it would be like if the disaster that struck Japan happened here. What if I was separated from my family and had no way to know what’s going on, no way to communicate, and was alone and lost?  As a mother, I immediately know how desperate I’d feel if I was separated from my little girl. How would I find her? How would I know she is ok?

Although we don’t know how many areas have access to the Internet in the coastal areas hit by the tsunami, Google’s Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake is helping find missing people. So is the Family Links website from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Watching updates from international news programs, I noticed Brazil has the second largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan.  There are thousands of people there without any news or contact from their Japanese friends and family.  So Person Finder and the ICRC site are helping people all over the world – who are relieved to know their loved ones are safe, even if they can’t yet speak or connect in any other way. I’m thankful that technology can at least ease minds across the oceans in its own small way.

Staggering disaster damage

Although Japan was well prepared for an earthquake, there was “next to nothing” the country could do to prepare for the magnitude of destruction this earthquake and tsunami caused.

The number of people affected is hard to fathom. The most recent disaster figures from Reuters say that more than 440,000 people have been evacuated. Over 850,000 households are still without electricity in near-freezing weather—and at least 1.5 million households don’t have running water. According to CNN over 8,200 people are confirmed dead and sadly, at least 13,000 more missing.

The earthquake and tsunami have taken an unknown toll on family pets and animals too – leaving many four-legged friends injured or abandoned who need rescuing.

Rescue and relief help

This is a time when the people of Japan need help from every resource and every donation that we can give. Despite an ever-growing death toll, there is some hope. Teams like the Los Angeles County Fire urban search and rescue teams are in Japan right now offering their skills to find survivors. And the story and photo of this four-month-old girl who had been separated from her parents for three days and was saved by the Japanese Defense Force touches our hearts.

Save the Children estimates at least 100,000 children have been affected by the disasters; many who have suffered profound losses. They are working to bring a sense of normality back into these children’s lives.  Direct Relief International has worked with the Japanese American Citizens League to provided $400,000 that was sent to Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR Japan), a 31-year-old leading Japanese nonprofit organization.  This donation allows AAR Japan to continue its relief efforts, which are focused on persons with disabilities and elderly persons affected by the disaster.  They have teams providing essential nonfood and food supplies.

Welfare groups are scrambling to rescue helpless animals. Access to affected areas makes the job more challenging, and it’s another urgent need to help cold, hungry and injured animals or give shelter to those being left behind. Many rescue and animal care organizations are working to make a difference, including: International Fund for Animal Welfare, Inc. and the Humane Society of the United States.   This video from GlobalAnimal.org shows a dog bringing help to an injured friend, a glimpse of compassion in the midst of tragedy.

It is hard to know what you can do to help at a time like this. But thankfully—just like it does for people searches—today’s technology makes it easy to donate and help when the Japan victims need it the most.  And more than ever, I trust organizations that have experience and success in disaster recovery. JustGive has set up a special page that lists relief and aid groups working to help the Japanese people begin the long road to recovery.

Donate now and provide hope to people who have lost everything, including loved ones. Your generosity could mean one more hot meal, one more tent, one more survivor found.

And pass the word along to friends and family so they can give too.

Julia Hughes, Marketing Assistant

Haiti: What a difference a year makes?

Last January 12th, Haiti was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake—killing over 230,000 people and leaving more than 1 million homeless. The magnitude of the catastrophe, and the effort needed to rebuild are sometimes hard for me to grasp.

Just last week, the Huffington Post spoke of the delay in progress to aid survivors and rebuild. The Chronicle of Philanthropy states only 38 percent of the $1.4 billion donated by Americans to help survivors and begin rebuilding has been spent. Compared to Katrina, $3.3 billion was raised with 80 percent spent in the first year.

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Photo Credits: Allison Shelley (All Rights Reserved)

Like many donors who want to know their money is going to good use, my initial reaction was frustration. The recovery process seems stagnant. Why are survivors still living in substandard conditions? The fragile nation was most recently hit by a cholera outbreak. But I know the solutions aren’t simple; rebuilding will take years, likely a decade or more.

The Nonprofit Times interviewed Charlie MacCormack, CEO of Save the Children, who worries “the bulk of funds will be spent on this stabilization. It’s handing the people a fish, instead of teaching them to fish.” Julie Sell of the American Red Cross said they “will remain rebuilding in Haiti until every one of its donated dollars is spent.”

JustGive’s commitment to Haiti

In February 2010, we pledged $25,000 to match your donations for Haiti relief and rebuilding. To restore the country and help empower the Haitian people, we disbursed over $75k to 26 charities, including our partner organizations like Friends of the Children of Haiti, Grace Mission to HaitiHaiti Micah Project, Lamp for Haiti and the Robert Ford Haitian Orphanage and School Foundation.

Our biggest of the smallest, Friends of the Children of Haiti received $3,800 in donations while our largest charity recipients were Hands Together and Partners in Health which received $24K and $17K, respectively.

In the last year, combining these matching donations with the immediate, one-time donations made, JustGive raised and sent $4.6 million to charities helping Haiti.

Your donations at work

American Red Cross has immunized more than 900,000 people, helping minimize the cholera outbreak. They are also providing more than 660,000 gallons of clean water per day.

Save the Children began to meet the basic needs—food, water, sanitation and shelter—immediately after the quake. Now, efforts are shifting to long-term needs such as a safe place for children to play in the tent villages, clean bathroom and shower areas, and sanitary water sources.

Lutheran World Relief contributed 30,000 health and hygiene kits, 25,500 quilts, 35,700 school kits, 17,500 tarps and 39 large tents for temporary schools. An additional 35,000 health kits assembled at Lutheran summer camps this year are expected to be distributed this month.

Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP)


This last year, we’ve been following the efforts of students at Naples High School (Florida). Their club, Students Together Opposing Poverty (STOP), began collecting donations from fellow students and faculty immediately following the earthquake. Challenged by a promise from their teacher to match funds raised, together, they generated nearly $10,000 in Haitian relief. (Read more about their fundraising efforts, including Concert for a Cause which raised $2,500 in donations.)

Continuing to help
Updates from the media on progress in Haiti, slow as it may be, are reminders that we still have work to do. When Katrina hit home we saw the devastation first hand. Let’s keep working to help our neighbors struggling to rebuild their home. Make a donation to an organization committed to disaster relief in memory of those who lost their lives last year. Continue giving. Then tell someone about it, share your thoughts with us on Facebook, or follow our conversations on Twitter.

This week’s disasters affect thousands in South Pacific and Indonesia

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook the South Pacific, triggering tsunami waves that damaged most of the Samoan Islands. Numerous businesses and homes were destroyed in it’s wake. The current death toll is over 100, with many more injured or missing. Numbers are expected to rise as rescue workers search through debris.

CNN.com reports the White House has declared a major disaster, making federal funding available. The US is currently sending planes with assistance to affected areas.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” said Dr. Salamo Laumoli, director of health services in American Samoa. “I have never felt an earthquake like that before.”

In Indonesia, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake left over 1,100 dead, 2,181 injured and thousands still unaccounted for. More than 2,650 buildings have been damaged in the area and landslides have disrupted power and communications.

Your donation to the following charities will help provide basic services for  those in need to restart their lives.

Americares

International Federation of Red Cross

Mercy Corps

Save The Children

World Vision

You may also search the JustGive Guide for additional Disaster Relief charities.

Looking for a way to make a difference without a big budget? When getting together with friends for dinner this weekend, choose a less expensive restaurant. Everyone can pitch in the $5 or $10 saved as a donation to a charity that will provide food and clean water to those in need.

- Sarah Myers, Program Manager