By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) NewsBreak readers in recent weeks have asked for a story on how to help people experiencing homelessness in Denver.
There are many rewarding volunteer opportunities with people experiencing homelessness. Here are a few examples:
- Serving meals: This is a great way to provide food and nourishment to people who are in need. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or other organization that provides meals to people experiencing homelessness.
- Cleaning shelters: This is a way to help keep shelters clean and sanitary for the people who live there. You can volunteer to clean the floors, bathrooms, kitchens, and other areas of the shelter.
- Donating clothes: This is a way to help people who are experiencing homelessness get the clothes they need. You can donate new or gently used clothes to a homeless shelter or other organization that provides clothing to people in need.
- Providing companionship: This is a way to help people who are experiencing homelessness feel less alone. You can volunteer to spend time with people experiencing homelessness, talking to them, listening to them, and just being there for them.
- Mentoring youth: This is a way to help young people who are experiencing homelessness reach their full potential. You can volunteer to mentor a young person, providing them with guidance, support, and encouragement.
Organizations that could use your help
There are many organizations in Denver that serve people experiencing homelessness and need volunteers. Here are a few examples:
- Denver Rescue Mission. The Mission, known to people experiencing homelessness as “Jesus Saves” due to its neon crucifix on the building, operates a community center on Lawrence Street and shelters in Park Hill. The Lawrence Street location has a different group volunteering to serve each meal. So, there are plenty of chances to help.
- Urban Peak. Urban Peak provides shelter and services for young people. Volunteer opportunities listed on Urban Peak’s website include preparing and serving meals, picking up donations of food, and even tutoring clients for long-term volunteers.
- Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, or MDHI. Among many services MDHI coordinates is the annual Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers make the count possible. Details about volunteering will be posted in October on MDHI’s website.
- Salvation Army Crossroads. This homeless shelter often has churches come visit once a month to offer haircuts, clothing and more. The Salvation Army also partners with corporations and small businesses whose employees volunteer in myriad ways. Volunteer opportunities listed on the website include helping with emergency sheltering in inclement weather, serving meals at Lambuth Family Center, working at food banks, teaching youths music and more.
All volunteers with the Salvation Army’s emergency services division undergo a background check and training. “In times of disaster, through our Emergency Disaster Services volunteers, The Salvation Army provides quality food and hydration services to those impacted by disaster through our mobile kitchens (canteens), capable of producing thousands of meals a day,” according to the Salvation Army website. “Volunteers can provide emotional and spiritual care, manage and distribute donations, provide emergency/disaster social services, provide radio/communications support, and support our efforts in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles. Volunteers can choose from a variety of roles and duties such as driving our disaster vehicles, cooking, and serving meals, making phone calls, helping us maintain our vehicles, equipment, and supplies, or serving on our Incident Command Team.”
· Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, or CCH. CCH is a large organization that provides healthcare and housing to people experiencing homelessness. CCH offers a course on advocating for people experiencing homelessness. “Join the Advocacy Network to help us challenge the mechanisms that perpetuate homelessness,” the Coalition encourages on its website. “As an Advocacy Network member, you can help shape the public policy process through citizen lobbying, assist with voter registration, support key ballot measures, and engage in special projects like the Denver Basic Income Project. Our goal is to make advocacy easy, fun, and meaningful.”
If you live near an encampment or other place where people experiencing homelessness can be found, you can pack sandwiches and water and pass them out. Or in the winter months, consider supplying your unhoused neighbors with hand warmers, gloves, or stocking caps.
Finding the right volunteer opportunity
These are just a few examples of the many rewarding volunteer opportunities with people experiencing homelessness. Here are some additional tips for finding rewarding volunteer opportunities with people experiencing homelessness:
- Consider your skills and interests. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? There are many different volunteer opportunities available, so find one that matches your skills and interests.
- Talk to people who are already volunteering. They can give you insights into the different volunteer opportunities available and help you find one that is a good fit for you.
- Be patient. It may take some time to find the right volunteer opportunity.
Remember homeless people are human
Here are some final things to remember when helping people experiencing homelessness:
- Be respectful. Remember that people experiencing homelessness are people just like you and me. They deserve to be treated with respect.
- Be understanding. Everyone's experience of homelessness is different. Be understanding of the challenges that people are facing.
- Be patient. It may take time for people to get back on their feet. Be patient and supportive.