Home for the Holidays

Thankfully most of us will never know what it’s like to spend a night in our car, find shelter in a park, or not know where we will get our next meal. We identify homelessness with strangers—the man on the street corner asking for change, or the mom and child trying to find shelter to escape violence.

With home foreclosures at a record high, it’s no surprise nonprofits are expecting longer lines for their shelters this winter. Nighttime temperatures are dropping below freezing throughout the country right now, and obtaining a dry, warm place to sleep is necessary for survival.

In 2007, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimated 3.5 million people—1.35 million of them children—are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. According to Housing and Urban Development, last year, 1 in every 200 people spent at least one night in a homeless facility. The San Francisco Homeless Services Coalition (a branch of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Coalition) estimates there are currently 35,000 homeless in the Bay Area: thirty percent are families with children, and more than half sleep on the streets at night.

Overwhelmed? JustGive makes it easy to give a little and make a big difference.

The problem of homelessness can seem too big, too far from our homes. So how can you personally make a difference? By donating as little as $10, you provide a safe place to stay, a warm meal for empty stomachs, and dignity and hope for a better future.

Here are several charities in my backyard that are helping the homeless:

· San Francisco Interfaith Council is a network of faith-based organizations “committed to the principles of human dignity.” For the past 19 years, the council has provided shelter and hot meals for the homeless in San Francisco. This year, cold weather shelters will be open from November 23 through February 28.

· The Oakland Army Base provides temporary winter shelter and hot meals for homeless in Alameda County from November through March. The Oakland Army Base Workforce Development Collaborative supplies housing, food, employment, and healthcare to low income residents and the homeless year-round.

· Glide provides three hot meals to the city’s hungry everyday—750,000 meals per year. For some who come to eat, Glide may be the only safe and welcoming environment they experience in a day’s time. In a recent interview for the San Francisco Chronicle, nonprofit leaders state that drastic increases in the need for food and shelter, combined with cuts in funding, are creating “a crisis in the emergency homeless services system.”

How can I help my local charity provide shelter from the cold and a hot meal to families in need this winter?

Search JustGive’s database of nearly 1.5 million charities and find shelters in your city or zip code that would benefit from your donation. Donate to a local charity you know and make a difference for those who otherwise would go without a roof over their heads and food.

Bringing it Home

Know someone having a house warming party? Going home for the Thanksgiving and don’t know what to bring? Make a donation in a friend or family member’s name to an organization that provides help and hope for those without homes. Don’t know what charity to choose? Buy a GiveNow Card and let them select from nearly 1.5 million organizations that make a difference.

Want to spread the word? Tell a friend.

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