One of the most common misconceptions about homelessness is that it is an individual issue; that a single person or family determines their own fate and only they can prevent themselves from reaching a position where they experience homelessness or recover once they have reached that point. But this is truly not the case. The impact of a community support system can have a significant effect on homelessness.
This is true not just on an issue-to-issue basis (providing financial support, necessary healthcare resources, food, and clothing) but applies to the shared role all of these things can play in helping families recover from homelessness. As members of one community, we are all responsible for taking care of one another. We should do everything in our power to aid those in need.
How Communities Can Help
By helping families get proper care and find reliable sources of income, several of the primary roadblocks to finding housing are removed. Long-term economic struggle and illness are some of the leading causes of homelessness, so limiting their continued impact on the population experiencing homelessness is key.
There are many practical ways in which communities can support families experiencing homelessness and aid them on the road to finding housing. Financial donations, healthcare support, and aid with resources such as food and clothing may be some of the best ways a community can help. Donating food, clothing, and essential toiletries is very important, as many families experiencing homelessness are in need of these vital supplies during their search for stable housing. One opportunity to collect these supplies is through organizing community drives. These types of drives can help neighbors, co-workers, and places of business come together – creating both teamwork and social responsibility. This can also create a conduit for businesses to provide charitable job/skills mentoring and training, or healthcare services. An active and engaged community can play a pivotal role in providing families with the resources they need.
One of the best ways an individual can help families experiencing homelessness is by volunteering their time and talent for a local organization like Family Promise. As many individuals are passionate about helping those in need, their impact can be amplified by working with a community group that is already working toward that goal. Volunteering is fulfilling and provides real value, as one of Family Promise’s volunteers states:
"I will continue to be involved because I believe it is a valuable program that helps families to move from homelessness to home by working with them on important life skills and relationship skills."
- Kathy, FPHCR volunteer since 2010
The Power of One, Or One Hundred
While each action is extremely helpful on its own, the way these actions come together is just as important. Each feed into the other, providing varied and widespread support.
For example, if a person experiencing homelessness is looking for a job, the first step is to help them fulfill that need through job boards, skills training, mentorship, etc. But from that point, they may not have the right clothes or have transportation for the interview, which could prevent them from acquiring the position. This communal cooperation is key in supporting families to reach their eventual goal of finding housing.
There is no one way in which a community can completely solve homelessness. It is a complex issue that requires complex responses. That is why attempting to solve many of its key areas at once is a necessary and useful step. And when one part of a family’s journey to finding housing becomes easier, every other step follows along. An active community can play a pivotal role in providing families with the resources they need. And together, we can all play a part in accomplishing that goal.
To volunteer or donate, please visit https://www.familypromisehcr.org/get-involved
If you or someone you know are in need of shelter, contact Family Promise of the Harrisburg Capital Region. Please call (717) 737-1100 or start the application process online here.