Kids & Obesity: Two Things Don’t Belong Together

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Truth be told: I was a fat kid. I was called names and made fun of in elementary school. It’s a painful childhood memory.

I don’t remember my parents or doctor talking to me about my weight (they may have). I do remember earning “clean plate club” honors a lot. As I was starting high school, I’d had it with shopping in the Sears section for heavy kids. I was missing out and unhappy about my weight. I didn’t lose it in the best way (I remember Tab and those old Weight Watchers chocolate squares), but did drop 25 pounds before 9th grade.

Yes, those were different times, and salt-laden casseroles and sugary Jell-O were staples at family gatherings and church dinners. At home, Durkee french fried onion rings and shoestring potato sticks in a can were always in the cupboard . . . to top off those casseroles.  They were ready-to-eat bad snacks I grabbed for instant “food.”

As I got older, I learned more about unhealthy habits. Given my experience, I cringed when I read the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: more than one third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, and obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years!

Sadly, a New England Journal of Medicine article says the road to obesity starts before age 5.

Childhood obesity is more upsetting because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once only adult issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And as I know, it can also affect self-esteem.

How can we help our kids?

via KidsHealth.org

via KidsHealth.org

It may come as no surprise that new guidelines published last Monday, June 29, by the American Academy of Pediatrics say we need to focus on prevention.

This starts by understanding when a child is considered obese—when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height, as measured by body mass index (BMI). The standards are:

  • Overweight = BMI-for-age between 85th and 94th percentiles
  • Obese = BMI-for-age 95th percentile or above

(You can use this tool from Kid’s Health to check your children.)

Make better food choices and exercise

vegetablesOne of the best strategies to prevent childhood obesity is to lead by example, improving diet and exercise habits of your whole family.

Most of us know to buy fewer sweetened beverages (sodas, juice and sports drinks) and not stock junk food in the house (or buy it in bulk!). We’ve also heard about First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative stressing physical activity and the recommended 60 minutes of active play time day.

So how do we put good habits into practice? A few practical tips:

  • Don’t ban junk food outright. Instead, limit the number of treats kids are allowed to eat. That way, kids aren’t as tempted to want what they can’t have or overeat when it’s offered by someone else.
  • Keep fresh fruit in reach to grab as a quick snack. Put higher-calorie foods in the back of the frig or pantry. Get good frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (no and no sugar or salt) when fresh isn’t available.
  • via LetsMove.org

    via LetsMove.org

    Make an effort to limit technology time for kids to no more than 2 hours a day, including computers, videos, games, watching TV. Turn off the TV during family meals to prevent distracted eating (and more) – Have you seen Dixie’s Dark for Dinner ads?

  • Plan activities that give everyone exercise, like walking, biking and swimming. Turn a walk after dinner into a family affair.
  • Make sure your kids get enough sleep, since studies suggest there’s a link between obesity and insufficient sleep.

For more: check out these 10 healthy eating tips and take advantage of the thousands of healthy MyPlate recipes on Pinterest.

Physician education

We now know doctors have to get more involved. While weight is an uncomfortable and awkward topic to tackle, physicians need to address it during children’s visits.

kids running 11578647Recent collaborative research between Caroline Shue, associate professor of communication studies at Ball State University and the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency Center found a hesitancy to discuss weight is compounded by a disconnect with the reason for the visit (e.g., an ear infection for a “solid” child) as well as a lack of doctors’ training and consistent clinic practices to calculate BMI and chart discussions with patients.

The research identified several good ways to fix the problems, including:  targeted training programs for doctors; and doctor’s offices documenting patients’ height, weight, and BMI more frequently and regularly.

Support nonprofits making a difference

We can all help charities working to get kids more active and prevent obesity. Here are three with programs designed to do just that, operating across the country:

American Heart Association
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Boys & Girls Clubs of America
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YMCA of the USA
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We’ve come a long way since I was a little girl, and I’m encouraged by all the attention, education and resources that exist now. Let’s step up, so other kids can skip all the bad stuff that comes from carrying too much weight. Here’s to preventing childhood obesity, and raising healthier future generations!

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Nonprofit Spotlight: Rainbow House

Title Image Nonprofit Spotlight Rainbow House

It’s the mission of the Columbia, Missouri Rainbow House to keep children safe and support families in crisis through prevention, assessment, and intervention in child abuse and neglect.

A wall of handprints greets children, young people and their families who come in the door. They’re encouraged to find a hand that fits theirs, to let them know they’re not alone: another person their size has been here. Rainbow House puts children first and takes a team approach to helping them, focusing not on what they’ve been through, but where they’re going. Kids

“We’re constantly working on awareness,” says Development Director Chad McMinn. “People think abuse and neglect are something they see on a Dateline program, and not something happening here. It’s the same for teen homelessness.”

In Mid-Missouri, the Rainbow House is the only organization of its kind. It’s a local nonprofit that helps any child in the area who is at risk with programs and services that change their lives.

Rainbow House was started in 1986, when long-time foster parent Kathy Hughes wanted to provide a home-like environment so siblings could stay together and continue in their home school. In the last 29 years, Rainbow House has become a nonprofit operating three major programs: a children’s emergency shelter, a regional Child Advocacy Center, and a Homeless Youth Program.

Original farmhouse location on Oakland Gravel Road

Original farmhouse location on Oakland Gravel Road

Programs and Services

The Children’s Emergency Shelter temporarily houses children who are in foster care and helps children during a family crisis (the nonprofit expanded to include crisis care in 1992). The only shelter for several counties, Rainbow House gives Kid Coloringchildren a safe place to stay while their parents—struggling with homelessness, unemployment, temporary mental instability or other issues—stabilize their lives.

The Regional Child Advocacy Center (CAC) was created in August of 1998, when the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and nonprofit’s board of directors realized the area needed one.  Rainbow House is the only CAC for 11 counties, and has child therapists with Master’s degrees who conduct the forensic interviews to assess what needs to happen in the child’s best interests.  Serving children from birth to age 21, the center is a family-friendly environment that provides therapy for children who have been sexually abused and/or severely physically abused.

The Homeless Youth Program was started as a Teen Center in November of 2007, and is now an off-site living facility called “Sol House.” It offers temporary housing and services for homeless youth as well as an 18-month program that helps them make a meaningful and productive transition into adulthood. The year and a half program includes weekly life skill classes, and requires young people to maintain a job and be on an educational track (pursuing a trade skill or complete a GED or schooling).

Results

In a recent year, 99% of the families helped by Rainbow House were at or below the poverty level. The majority of services were provided to children 5 – 18 years old; 65% of those were girls. In one year, the nonprofit:

  • Ensured nearly 3,000 individual safe nights for children and youth
  • Provided 622 therapy sessions
  • Conducted 396 forensic interviews
  • Raised awareness of 1,026 people through community education

Good Giving Practices

Since 2009, JustGive has partnered with the Rainbow House to raise money online. The nonprofit has taken advantage of the services we offer and branded their donation experience.

Custom Donate Now ButtonMarketing Director April Barnett created a custom donation button and placed it prominently on the home page (above the fold), using the JustGive link to take website visitors straight to their online Donation Page.

Rainbow House has customized its Donation Page with its mission and lists a range of six gift sizes (from $10 to $1,000), telling donors what their donation accomplishes.  “We switch those around, showing different price points. We think about what people feel good about giving and focus on direct services for the kids,” comments Barnett.

McMinn appreciates JustGive’s donation reports. “I love being able to export it into a pdf or excel file. It’s clean and clear to use.”

Donate NowIf you’d like to help Rainbow House, donate now to help make a difference in the lives of children.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

P.S. If you’d like to be featured in the JustGive Blog, submit your nonprofit!

A Mother’s Pride: A Daughter’s Giving

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Kids are amazing. They notice everything. They question everything. They are curious.

My daughter J’Nyah is 7. Since she was born, I’ve been amazed as how quickly she learns things. When she was a baby, it was learning to hold her head, smile, or sit up.  As a toddler–crawling, walking, running. It felt like she went from speaking gibberish to full sentences in the blink of an eye.

One of the best things about your child growing up is getting to know them as a person.

Her caring, giving spirit started young

J’Nyah has always been very independent and a leader. The first time I realized what kind of person she was growing into, I was so proud. At 2 years old, on her first day of preschool, we walked in, met the teachers, and she saw  other kids she knew from the neighborhood and local parks. They all went right to playing.  My little girl was very interested in the “house” area and started playing with the dolls.

My DaughterThere was one little girl who wouldn’t let go of her mother and was crying, out of control. J’Nyah asked me, “Mama, why is that girl so sad?” I said she was probably scared because it was her first time in a new place and she didn’t know anyone. J’Nyah picked up an extra doll, took it to the girl and started playing with her. Before I knew it, the two girls were giggling. The other grateful mother gave her little girl a kiss and we slipped out. The girls are friends to this day.

This happened again on the first day of kindergarten and first grade. J’Nyah is always ready to help someone having a hard time and make them feel better. Knowing that she isn’t using her strong personality to bully people and instead, to include and take care of them, makes me proud every day.

One day while walking downtown, we saw a number of homeless people panhandling and sleeping. My curious 4-year-old was staring at people as we passed. I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable, but I also didn’t want her to ignore them.

As we went into the subway station, her questions started, “Why are those people there? Why are they asking for money? Why do they have a dog? Why are their kids with them?” I explained they probably didn’t have homes or jobs so they ask for money to get food and things they need. J’Nyah thought about this a lot, especially the kids that might not have a house or food. And she decided that she wants to help them.

At age 5, she started raising money

jnyah_five_s_256_254Since I work for JustGive, making giving a part of everyday life is always on my mind. So when J’Nyah decided she wanted to raise money for the homeless for her 5th birthday instead of getting gifts for herself, I was SUPER glad to we offer the tools to make that happen.  I’ll admit that I planted the thought to raise money, but since the idea to help others was already there, she agreed right away.

At 5 years old, she raised $376 for a local organization, BOSS: Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficency, which provides resources and housing for homeless families. And the idea stuck with her.  She remembers.

When she was turning 6, they were studying seals and sea lions in school, and J’Nyah heard her teacher say the pups are often abandoned. So she asked, “Can we help save the seals and sea lions this year for my birthday?” I was very proud she wanted to do it again, and together, we looked online for the charities rescuing marine life.  We were lucky to find local organizations, the Marine Mammal Center (which we could visit too!) and Save the Bay.

jnyahsmile_s_259_275While we were looking at these charities, she saw an ad for the ASPCA with an abused dog on it. She was very sad to hear that other animals are homeless and added East Bay SPCA so she could help them too. That year she raised $735 for the 3 charities.

When she was getting ready to turn 7, I wondered what we would do to celebrate. She was going to a lot more birthday parties this year and talking about elaborate plans for her party. As we were planning her party, she surprised me and asked, “Who are we going to help this year for my birthday?”

We talked through her many ideas, and since dolphins are her favorite animal right now, she decided to help them. This year she raised $830 for Blue Voice, The Dolphin Project via Earth Island Institute, and Wild Dolphin Project.

Her giving example

jnyah7_s_259_259This Mother’s Day, I am so proud to have a child that wants to help others every day. I’m glad we’re talking about issues in the world and figuring out that making things better is something we can do together.  I know J’Nyah will grow up to make a profound impact in the world.

If we all had her giving spirit, can you imagine the good we could do in the world?

-Julia Hughes
Product Manager

Nonprofit Spotlight: Creative Alternatives of New York (CANY)

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Heidi Landis, CANY’s Associate Executive Director, recently talked with me about the organization’s mission and story. Landis was a professional actor in New York who fell in love with drama therapy and became certified as a drama therapist. After starting as an intern, she has now been with CANY for 10 years.

CANY’s story

CANY Photos 7.06 124It began more than 40 years ago, at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York, when a group of actors were welcomed onto the psychiatric units to work with patients. Philanthropist Janet Levy, who started the organization, first brought the artists in, and the program was so successful it was expanded to all inpatient units. Eventually, drama therapists, who had more theory training, took over for the actors.

Ten years ago, CANY started expanding to work with more people – from 5 year old children to veterans and new refugees. Many of the groups they serve are women/domestic violence survivors, and 65% are children who’ve experienced complex trauma (pervasive abuse and violence over time, at a developmental stage). All have underlying trauma in their lives.

CANY now offers its drama therapy programs at more than 15 facilities serving traumatized, mentally ill and underserved populations.

What is drama therapy?

CANY groupDrama therapy is the intentional use of drama and/or theater processes to achieve therapeutic goals. It is active and experimental. CANY’s mission

CANY is all about empowering people who have endured trauma to rebuild their lives.

Through the use of drama therapy and creative expression in a group setting, CANY helps children and adults expand their self-concept, imagine new life possibilities, and build the social and emotional tools they need in order to live meaningful lives.

All staff are licensed creative arts therapists, highly trained in trauma therapy. CANY’s treatment program is a strength-based model, and it’s also relational. Since trauma happens in relationship, CANY’s philosophy is that people must heal in relationship.

IRC.Summer.2008 015CANY partners with hospitals, schools, community centers and treatment centers for biweekly sessions, and CANY therapists visit 2 or 3 sites a day to guide groups. While their offices are in New York City, group sessions are held throughout New York and Connecticut.

In addition to CANY’s therapy groups, the organization trains therapists, clinicians, teachers and artists about 6 times a year, and conducts a seminar series for mental health and social justice experts. Two years ago, CANY sent a group to Uganda, where they trained a group of clinicians in their methods to work with former child soldiers.

CANY’s guiding principles

Creativity is health. The more creative and spontaneous you are in your life, the healthier you are. Drama therapy is a training ground for that.

CANY080310_0202Metaphor is a healing tool. Roles in drama provide a safe container for trauma processing. Through story and fictional characters, poetry, art and music, trauma survivors can try on different roles and learn something about themselves.

Group is the therapeutic agent. All CANY’s services are based in group work that helps participants make connections and create moments that heal.

Results

A research study was recently conducted with CANY partner agencies CARES High School and St. Luke’s Roosevelt  Hospitals. It measured teens’ emotional, behavioral and academic performance changes as a result of CANY’s trauma-informed drama therapy and found:

  • 08benefit 00285% demonstrated gains in regulating their emotions
  • 72% showed improvement in regulating their behavior
  • 63% showed improved peer relationships over time
  • 47% increased their GPA an average of 3%
  • 77% demonstrated improved self-concept
  • 72% had a reduced negative self-image and improved sense of identify

Giving practices and experience

CANY has customized its JustGive Donation page, sharing its mission, describing how drama therapy helps, and telling donors exactly what their gifts can do.

Maria Eleni, Finance & Operations Manager says, “JustGive has enabled us to give our donors a clear and effortless way to contribute to CANY, in addition to our mail and fundraising campaigns (we find some donors prefer making an anonymous gift). JustGive is straightforward and intuitive to use. We’ve never had a problem to even necessitate a support call.”

button_donate_now_yellowIf you’d like to support CANY and help make a difference today for adults and kids through drama therapy.

– Alex Mechanic
Service Team Manager

P.S. If you’d like to be featured in the JustGive Blog, submit your nonprofit!

Time to Act: Prevent Sexual Assaults

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Image Source: Flickr

When we hear the term sexual assault, most of us think of rape by a stranger. The reality is that about 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Sexual assault isn’t just limited to rape, either—it includes child abuse, sexual harassment, teen relationship violence, date rape and domestic violence. Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year, the campaign focuses on preventing sexual violence on campus.

Some starling statistics

Recent news stories of the alleged fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia (Rolling Stone reporting snafu aside) and the Stanford University athlete caught mid rape have certainly fueled the conversation about sexual assault on college campuses.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

The campus sexual assault study revealed:

  • 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college
  • 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college

The majority of these college victims never report the assault. In the big picture, sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes: 68% of assaults in the last five years were not reported to the police. And only about 2% of rapists will ever serve a day in prison.

What can we do about it?

Educating our children about this is imperative. While it’s a tough and awkward topic to tackle, we need to talk about it. That’s one of the best ways to truly protect them.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, suggests ways to get the conversations started: teaching your child to say no, and to come to you with questions and concerns.

The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center booklet, He Told Me Not To Tell, is another good parent’s guide. It includes specific ideas about storytelling and playing the What If game.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s What is Healthy Sexuality and Consent fact sheet contains great information for teenagers.

What else?

Help charities who are addressing the issue of sexual assault do more outreach, create educational materials, and provide the services for victims that make a difference. Give today so they can speak with a louder voice and help prevent sexual assaults.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center is the organization behind Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and offers a wealth ofbutton_give_now_small information for preventing sexual violence. It is operated by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Rape Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and operatesbutton_give_now_small the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country.

Love is Respect is a great resource to for engaging, educating and empowering young adults about how to prevent and endbutton_give_now_small abusive relationships. Brought to you by Break the Cycle.

– Candy Culver

Marketing Consultant

Nonprofit Spotlight: Bubble Foundation

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

At first blush, the Bubble Foundation seems like an unusual name for an organization that helps kids live healthy and happy lives, but then again…. Not wanting to pigeonhole their holisticbubble_logo efforts or be heavy handed about wellness, the name was chosen to keep it fun and focused on kids.

Funders ask about our name, says Executive Director Lizzie Redman, but never the kids. In fact, it’s a contagious echo in school halls where kids are heard chattering about “Bubble, Bubble.”

Bubble’s mission

Bubble believes every child in the United States, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have access to activities, food and information that helps them live healthy and happy lives. To accomplish this in New York City, they partner with schools in underserved communities, supplying core curriculum and program activities to fill a gap. They provide – free of charge – information, food and activities for schools, students and families who would otherwise get little or no health and wellness education.

School programs that deliver

The power of going directly into schools is how Bubble succeeds. Not just with kids, but their parents and school leaders too. Redman explains, “We reach kids while they’re young and expose them early on. We also bring in parents for family meals and workshops where we work with them about how to make healthy changes at home. We plant the seeds for healthy habits and empower school leaders to carry it forward.”

Bubble’s programs make “food, fun and fitness float”:

 

Bubble EATS is nutrition education delivered through weekly classes, cooking demonstrations and more from volunteer teachers. For instance, “kids may never have seen broccoli before, but they learn about it, cook it and find it enjoyable to eat,” describes Redman.

Bubble GROWS teaches the science of how food grows and basic farming and irrigation principles, and includes visits from farmers and to community gardens. Bubble brings portable grow boxes into classrooms and starts outside or rooftop gardens where there’s space available.

Bubble MOVES connects the school to other organizations and experts for fitness classes, recess programs, sports clinics, and special programs like yoga and African dance.

Results

Started in 2010 as a small organization to help one school – the Mott Haven Academy in the Bronx – Bubble will partner with eight schools during the 2015-2016 academic year. A few stats:

  • Bubble programs teach 1,200bubble2 students each week
  • Around 50 volunteers work for Bubble each semester – 30 teach weekly and 20 others support special programs
  • School partnerships last for 2 years (with support afterward)
  • Impact: 5 schools are successful program graduates, 6 schools are currently partners, and 4 more are being added next year

Giving practices

JustGive is proud to help the Bubble Foundation raise money online. “The ability to have a platform we can easily use is huge,” comments Redman. “And from a data perspective, to know where the money is coming from is valuable.”

Following best practices, Bubble has its Donate button built into every page of its website, and has customized its Donation Page, telling donors exactly what different size gift can do.

Check out how you can help the Bubble Foundation do even more.

– Candy Culver

Marketing Consultant

P.S. If you’d like to be featured in the JustGive Blog, submit your nonprofit!

One From the Heart – February is American Heart Month

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Image Source: Flickr

I’ll be the first to admit it. I get stressed.

Stress affects our health in many ways, but heart disease is a common result in the United States, particularly among women. As a woman, this is a stressor in itself. Worries and perfectionism aside, what are some simple, everyday ways you and I can decrease our stress and be kind to our hearts?

A plant-heavy or plant-based diet is a wonderfully heart-healthy eating plan. Personally, I switched from a vegetarian to a vegan diet 2 years ago, and everything I continue to learn about its health benefits encourages me to keep at it. Avocado and olive oil are my favorite plant-based ways to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol while leaving heart levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol intact.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

Hobbies that include movement are a low-stress way to get your heart pumping stronger. Dance class (or dancing around the house), gardening, vigorous cleaning and yoga or stretching are some relatively low-impact and low-cost ways to get your circulation up and flex your heart muscle.

But what about the mental stress? It’s the biggest factor in many of our busy lives. Mindfulness meditation is one way to change your mindset and even regulate the rhythm of your heart. Look for a zen or yoga center in your area for more information. Lucky for me, San Francisco is home to a beautiful Zen Center that hosts a variety of programs, classes and retreats.

My personal favorite fact about preventative heart health? Doing good for others lowers your stress levels.

This is something we can all do anytime and it doesn’t have to cost money – sharing time is just as valuable.

Image Source: Flickr:

Image Source: Flickr

If you’d like to find volunteer opportunities in your area, you can use our Act Locally search option and contact local charities to see how you can help. Bonus points on volunteering: It gets you outside – and being in nature is another great de-stressor.Even if you live in a city, you can likely find an urban gardening project to volunteer your time. Check out The National Gardening Association’s Kids Gardening program, which empowers every generation to lead healthier lives, build stronger communities, and encourage environmental stewardship through gardening programs.

If you’d like to support their efforts:

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The most sobering fact I uncovered in my research: women are more prone to suffer from undiagnosed heart disease. Women’s symptoms tend to differ from men’s, and women are more likely to suffer a silent heart attack.

In fact, heart attacks are responsible for the loss of half a million women per year in the U.S. alone. Heart disease is the number one killer of women even though many women are more afraid of breast cancer.

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

I lost a friend and community member, far before her time, to silent heart disease. After her untimely passing a few years ago, another friend organized memorial donations in her honor to WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. It’s a charity that provides support and research and was started by three women who have personal experience with heart disease issues. Women Heart was the first – and is still the only – national patient-centered organization focused exclusively on women’s heart disease.

If you’d like to donate to help WomenHeart carry out its work:

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Education, information and advocacy are our greatest weapons against killer heart disease. Together, we can multiply our strengths in fighting the battle against heart disease with a unified front. We have to watch out for each other, right?

-Alex Mechanic

Customer Service Manager

YEAR IN REVIEW: A LOOK BACK AT 2014

Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

Thanks to your giving and support, JustGive expanded philanthropy and sent more than $30 million to charity in 2014!

We passed a major milestone in May, processing our 1 millionth donation, and are proud that 24 percent of giving came from 2013 donors returning to use the site. We also saw charity gift card purchases grow by 9 percent. To be more accessible and expand our services, we launched our mobile responsive site and added the ability for companies to independently buy a quantity of gift cards.

Here’s a glimpse of our impact—and what we accomplished together—this year.

We’re charging into 2015 eager to do more good, fulfilling our mission to make charitable giving a part of everyday life. Here’s to making more of a difference!

Help us kick off the year in the best way possible: Set up an automatic monthly donation to your favorite charities today.

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Thank you for giving.

—Andrea Lloyd, Director of Programs

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

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