According to the most recent report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were an estimated 564,708 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. Approximately 36 percent of these individuals belong to homeless families that have been displaced due rising housing costs and poverty. These people represent the most vulnerable and overlooked population in our society, and cannot escape the cycles of poverty which have sent them to the streets.
But there is hope, thanks to many organizations across the country that have devoted themselves to ending homelessness in America. Some of these organizations focus on large systemic change by lobbying lawmakers in D.C., while others are on the streets, giving shelter and care to those most in need.
VICE Impact has rounded up a list of some of the best organizations working to fight homelessness in America. If you’re looking to make a difference—this is a great place to start.
1. The Ali Forney Center
New York City has one of the highest homeless populations in the country, and is currently experiencing levels of homelessness not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Among the most vulnerable homeless individuals are LGBTQ youth, who make up an estimated 40 percent of homeless youth in the city. Many of these youth are kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality, or flee abusive families. When they reach the streets, homeless LGBTQ youth experience greater risk for sexual assault, HIV infection, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness.
Fortunately, there is one organization determined to protect this vulnerable population: The Ali Forney Center. AFC is the largest LGBTQ community center in the US, and has been offering support to homeless LGBTQ youth since 2002. The AFC serves approximately 1,400 youth annually, providing this underserved community with emergency housing, health care, job readiness programs, and over 70,000 warm meals a year. You can get involved by volunteering, donating clothing, writing a letter to elected officials about policies affecting homeless youth, or making a donation.
2. Covenant House
Covenant House is an international network of homeless youth shelters, serving vulnerable kids in thirty one cities across the world. Since 1972, Covenant House has been on the frontlines of the fight to stop homelessness, and now serves over 80,000 homeless boys and girls every year.
These kids often come from abusive homes, struggle with mental illness or drug addiction, and even have been victims of human trafficking. Covenant House provides the same comprehensive care to all individuals that come through their doors, saving lives every day.
The program at Covenant House engages youth at three different levels. Through their Street Outreach, staff members go into the streets, rescue homeless youth, and bring them back to Covenant House for shelter and support. Once at the shelter, kids are offered Crisis Care, that includes immediate short term housing, as well as medical care and a warm meal. Once a youth has stabilized through Crisis Care, Long Term Support Services such as education, job readiness and transitional housing prepare the child for an independent adulthood. To support the incredible efforts of Covenant House, you can sign up for their monthly newsletter, donate, participate in a Sleep Out fundraiser, or sign this petition to stand up for homeless youth.
3. Downtown Women’s Center
Homelessness is up in Los Angeles County, and the city has seen its homeless population rise 23 percent in the past year. Skyrocketing rental costs, mental illness, and drug abuse are all contributors to the problem, but fortunately there are a number of fantastic Los Angeles charities that are fighting homelessnes.
The Downtown Women’s Center—the only LA shelter devoted exclusively to the needs of homeless women—is one of the most effective organizations in the city.
Founded in 1978, the nonprofit has spent nearly four decades tirelessly pursuing its goal of ending homelessness for women. DWC provides women with permanent supportive housing, and links them to health care, job preparation programs and educational opportunities. Their success rate is staggering: 95% of the women who go to the DWC remain permanently housed after entering the program. To get involved with DWC you can volunteer, donate goods, contribute financially, or get involved with their annual fundraiser.
4. National Alliance to End Homelessness
So much of the fight to end homelessness happens on the streets, with organizations directly engaging homeless populations and providing them with support. But work on a national, governmental level is equally as important, as our elected officials have the power to shape policy that affects homeless individuals across the country. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with lawmakers to create policies that will help put an end to homelessness.
The Alliance works on three main fronts to accomplish its mission: Research, Policy and Training/Implementation. The Alliance conducts comprehensive, national research to compile essential data on homelessness. This research is then used to educate policymakers, and help them shape policies that will work to end homelessness. Finally, once these policies are in place, The Alliance helps average citizens implement these solutions in their own communities, providing valuable training for local advocates. To help the National Alliance to End Homelessness in their efforts, you can contact your member of Congress, sign up for their newsletter, or donate here.
5. Coalition for the Homeless
Based in New York City, the Coalition for the Homeless is the country’s oldest nonprofit advocacy organization for the homeless. The group works to both directly serve the homeless with essential services, as well as fight for legal actions that ensure the rights of this vulnerable population.
The Coalition’s programs are comprehensive, and provide the homeless with crucial support. Every day, the organization’s Grand Central Food Program provides 1,000 meals to the homeless of New York City. The Coalition’s Crisis Services Program literally saves lives, by providing emergency support to homeless and at-risk individuals. The group’s housing program offers stable living situations to its residents, and the support they need to successfully transition out of homelessness. Job training is another focus of the organization, and this program gives homeless individuals the skills they need to enter the workforce and maintain employment. Finally, The Coalition’s Advocacy program works to conduct crucial research, educate the public, and impact legislation. To get involved, you can volunteer, donate to a food or clothing drive, or give a gift today.