Volunteer ideas to help homeless veterans in Indiana
Many people feel driven to help homeless veterans, often with the mindset that if said veterans dedicated a portion of their lives to protecting the United States, the least civilians can do is ensure they have a safe place to live.
And, sadly, homeless veteran statistics show that the need for stable housing is there. In 2016, Volunteers of America provided housing assistance and employment services for 1,132 homeless veterans in Indiana and HUD’s 2016 Point-In-Time Count estimated that there are an average of 663 homeless veterans in Indiana each day.
So what’s the best way to help these men, women, and families in unstable conditions? It’s an overwhelming thing to think about, especially when you’re driving home and notice a homeless veteran, standing on the median of a boulevard, simply and desperately asking for a few dollars.
Here are a few volunteer ideas about how you can help homeless veterans in Indianapolis, Evansville, or Fort Wayne.
1. Compile housewarming baskets for veterans moving into a new home
Our housing assistance programs in Indianapolis and Evansville use a rapid re-housing model with the idea that it’s best to get a homeless veteran into a safe, stable home ASAP rather than spend a long time in a shelter. So, oftentimes, our clients are moving into a home with absolutely nothing except for a few essential furniture pieces and food that we can provide for them.
In situations like these, a laundry basket full of cleaning supplies, cooking utensils, toilet paper and paper towels is very helpful, especially since our funding restricts what we can and can not buy for the veterans. “We are only allowed to buy furniture and food for the vets. Our funding does not allow us to buy cleaning supplies such as Windex and laundry detergent for them,” said Nwamaka Onochie, program director of SSVF Indianapolis. “Often we have to rely on donations from others to either purchase or provide those supplies.”
2. Host a dinner for homeless veterans living in transitional housing
At our transitional housing programs (Brandon Hall, Safe Haven and Liberty Landing) many church or work groups provide occasional dinners for the men and women living there. Some buy 10 pizzas; others prepare a home cooked meal. Some come on a consistent basis every Easter or Thanksgiving; others come by every other year or during random months. It doesn’t have to be for a holiday, the veterans always appreciate the extra attention and delicious food.
3. Volunteer to provide a class or activity
If you’re looking for a weekly or monthly volunteer opportunity and have an expertise to share you could offer free classes to homeless veterans. These men and women will benefit from the information and social interaction that will lift their spirits and give them hope. Volunteers have hosted exercise classes, cooking classes, and crafting activities.
4. Volunteer to offer job readiness training
How about employment preparation classes? Many of our clients have been out of the job field for a while and don’t know how to get started with finding a job. Even if you aren’t the HR director of your company, you most likely have a wealth of knowledge to share with our clients in regards to writing a resume and/or proper email etiquette.
5. Make a connection with our employment services or housing assistance programs
If you’re an owner of a small business, would you be willing to hire some of our veteran clients? Or, if you own a small apartment complex or a few houses, maybe you could consider renting them to some of our clients. They would greatly appreciate your willingness provide them with housing and employment assistance. Kirsten (see below) can get you connected to appropriate staff members.
6. Keep food or gifts cards in your car to hand out to homeless veterans
One of the things our vets value the most is being treated like a real human being. Often a small gesture like handing an apple or a granola bar to a homeless veteran on the street can show that person that you care about their well-being. A gift card to a nearby grocery store could also be helpful.