How to Volunteer at a Local Homeless Shelter

by Laurie Brenner

You feel good when you can do something for someone less fortunate, and volunteering at a local homeless shelter offers you both the chance to help others and feel good about it. If you know of homeless organizations in your town, visit them directly or check out their online sites, if they have one. Local churches often offer shelters or meals for the homeless as well.

National Coalition for the Homeless

Visit the National Coalition for the Homeless [website to sign up to help the homeless](http://nationalhomeless.org/about-homelessness/). There, you can get involved by filling out a form with your email address, first and last name, city and state. The organization is a network of people, some of whom are homeless or have been homeless, advocates, and activists and faith- and community-based organizations committed to defeating homeless. The organization can help you find a local homeless shelter where you can help.

Housing and Urban Development

Visit the federal government's [Housing and Urban Development department website](http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/california) to find opportunities in your state to help out. HUD has programs to help the homeless and homeless veterans and their families; they keep a list of local homeless shelters, community and religious organizations that help those in need. Contact the local regional office of HUD in your state to determine where you can be of service.

Volunteer Match

A nonprofit organization, [Volunteer Match](http://www.volunteermatch.org/) matches you with volunteer opportunities in your community. It maintains a database of these organizations. Go to the bottom of the screen and click on "Homeless," and it should bring up volunteer communities based in your community. The website recognizes your location if you have location services turned on; otherwise, it responds to the location of your Internet provider. You can also search for opportunities by filling in the search field.

National Directory

Download the [National Directory](http://www.nationalhomeless.org/directories/directory_local.pdf) from the National Coalition for the homeless. Enter the name of your state in the search field of the PDF to locate organizations in your area. The document contains email addresses of some of the local organizations in your area whom you can contact directly to volunteer your services. Some organizations may do a background check, especially if children are involved, so be prepared with a copy of your resume and include contact information for your references.

Contact the Red Cross

The Red Cross provides homeless shelters in emergency situations and can always use volunteers. The Red Cross maintains chapters in almost every state and in metropolitan areas across the United States. When you sign up to volunteer with the Red Cross, inform them of any special skills you may have, as this will help them decide where you might be of help. Visit the national website, and click on the link ["Find Your Local Red Cross"](http://www.redcross.org/) and type in your ZIP code. This will direct you to the site closest to you.

Ways You Can Help

If you can't find an organization where you can donate your services locally, you may be able to donate financial support, clothes, bedding or even food to local organizations that already have full volunteer staffs. When you donate clothing or bedding, ensure it is clean, usable and in good shape before giving it to the shelter. Many of these organizations take donations of both new and used items.

About the Author

As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.

Photo Credits

  • Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images