What can I do to help people experiencing homelessness? Given the enormity of growing homelessness crisis in our region, homelessness can seem like an impossible problem that personal actions can do very little to solve. But, the truth is that there is an opportunity and a need for each of us to become involved and to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.
1. Ask questions. What are the causes of homelessness? What are the funding sources and policies that govern implementation of interventions on Bainbridge and in Kitsap County? What are the additional resources needed for any one intervention to be sustainable and successful? As a community we can start having conversations with our neighbors and elected officials about Homelessness.
2. Donate. You may have seen some people that you suspect are homeless on Bainbridge Island. If you want to help but aren't sure how, reach out to agencies that work with people experiencing homelessness and ask what they need. At Helpline House, we receive and distribute a variety of items to support people who are sleeping outside:
we take limited donations of socks (year round) and warm clothes (in colder months)
in addition to some tarps, tents, and outdoor camping supplies.
Helpline House also supports neighbors who sleep in their cars, sheds, and other places of substandard housing. Donating supplies and funds to Helpline House allows us to obtain 'kitchenless bags' for people sleeping outside and weekly supplemental food for those who need it. Your support also funds staff that provide mental health counseling and case management to the local homeless community.
3. Volunteer. Get to know the available resources for people experiencing homelessness by volunteering in organizations that serve these neighbors. Volunteers better understand the struggles that the people experience trying to find meals each day, find much needed housing, or prepare for a job search.
4. Advocate. Beyond donating money and items. dedicating time to understand the types of interventions that work well is one of the most valuable ways to contribute to sustainable solutions. Having a deeper understanding of the potential interventions allows you to be an informed advocate to elected officials. Reach out to Helpline House to learn more about
overnight shelter, transitional housing, and affordable housing
a day center with resources such as hygiene services and computers (job searches)
outreach workers specifically for homeless individuals
How much will those interventions cost? What will make those efforts sustainable? What are the city and county policies surrounding these interventions? Informed advocates are one of our most important resources for sustainable change.