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Help the Homeless and Hungry

Because a city that takes care of its neediest is a stronger city for all


Many of us want to give our time, money, and donations to the homeless, hungry, and otherwise needy, but don’t know how. We’re here to help. Check out the ideas below, and email us if you know of any that we’re missing.

Read all of our stories on the needy and homeless.

Fight Homelessness

  • If you see a homeless person out in the cold, or if you know someone in your community who is homeless, contact the 24-hour Project HOME Homeless Outreach Hotline at (215) 232-1984.
  • When you see a homeless person, acknowledge them, even if it’s just to say “hello” or even “sorry, I can’t help you today.”  It’s a small thing, but it can help them avoid feeling invisible.
  • Download the Donafy app (story here) and use it to help those experiencing homelessness get the services they need. (Only available for iPhone; Android and web versions will be released soon.)
  • Ask about a donation matching program at your company, or a way to get credit for volunteer service, so that you can maximize your philanthropic impact.
  • Volunteer for one of the homeless shelters around the city. Some examples include Broad Street Ministry and Morris Home (story here). But there are dozens of sites across the city, many of which are listed here.  Donafy also has a list of over 100 organizations, which can be viewed in a handy map.
  • Help increase the amount of affordable housing in Philadelphia. Rebuilding Philadelphia Together and Habitat for Humanity both take volunteers to help with affordable housing builds and renovations.
  • Support the work of groups like the Healthy Rowhouse Project, which are working to keep people’s current homes habitable.
  • Next Great City released their 3rd agenda this year. Their top recommendation is making low-income homes healthier. You can join their coalition and support their agenda (see the signup form on their homepage).
  • Contact your elected officials and tell them that we need more supportive housing and more beds for those experiencing homelessness. Our current supply is not nearly enough to meet the need.
  • Familiarize yourself with the issues facing the homeless. The National Coalition for Homeless Advocacy’s mission is “to prevent and end homelessness while ensuring the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness are met and their civil rights protected.” On their site, the NCHA has a host of facts and insights providing more context and detail to a national problem.
  • Take action through Philly’s own Project HOME. A one-stop-shop for all issues facing the Philadelphia’s homeless, Project HOME also has a section of its website devoted entirely to taking action—and it’s not just through donations, either. Visitors can purchase artisanal products created by Project HOME residents, find volunteer opportunities, and learn how to advocate for the unique issues faced by the homeless.

Fight Hunger

Along with homelessness, hunger is a major issue for many Philadelphians and their families. Just being fed isn’t enough, though; what all people need are real meals that provide nutrition and meaningful sustenance.

  • Donate to the St. Christopher’s Foundation. Among other services for the needy, they host an Autumn Harvest Festival to support its nutrition-related initiatives, including Fresh Rx.
  • Local food pantries provide thousands of meals each year to needy Philadelphians. Find a local pantry (search this list and this map to find one) that is accepting food. Call first to see what they really need. (Don’t just assume that dropping off 64 cans of creamed corn will actually be helpful.) You can also volunteer to help them sort and distribute the food to those who need it.
  • Volunteer for the Coalition Against Hunger to help people who qualify sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly known as food stamps. For some, it is the best way to access healthy foods.
  • Philabundance also has a whole host of programs to fight hunger. Support them by volunteering or donating to their organization.
  • Help combat the food desert crisis in Philadelphia. Organizations like The Food Trust and St. Christopher’s Hopsital’s Farm to Families Initiative (story here) can use your help and donations to help make healthy food a viable option for every family in Philadelphia.
  • Give your leftovers from dinner out to a homeless person.  You weren’t going to eat those vegetables anyway.

Other ideas

  • Buy a One Step Away newspaper once in awhile. Folks selling those newspapers for $1 get to keep 75 cents; the rest goes towards printing costs. It’s a way for folks on the street or experiencing joblessness to earn some scratch while working. Even better? The publication is produced, and written, by those in Philadelphia’s shelter system.
  • Donate your no-longer-needed goods to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, or to local thrift stores like Second Mile, Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission or Camouflage Rhino Thrift Store (story here). These organizations provide job experience and income to those looking to get back on their feet. Plus, they provide affordable clothing options for those on limited budgets.
  • It’s great to donate canned and dry foods to local food banks. But the homeless need so much more that we don’t even think about. Consider donating essentials like socks, feminine hygiene products, bras, underwear, and more; call your local homeless shelter to see what products they need. Check out this great list to get an idea of what types of items are needed.
  • Winter clothing will also be in high demand. Consider donating your unused warm clothes to places like La Salle’s Pheed Philadelphia, which holds a Winter Clothing Challenge.
  • You might know someone who is in danger of becoming homeless. Many times, homelessness can occur simply because families are unable to afford their rent, utilities, or even food. Check out this list of helpful resources, and refer someone who’s in crisis. Here’s another link with some resources for people who live in other parts of the state.

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