Denver Rescue Mission Shares 6 Simple Ways To Help Denver’s Homeless Population

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reported that as of January 2020, on any given night there are 9,846 people experiencing homelessness in Colorado alone. With such a large amount of people in this situation, it can seem hopeless for anyone to have an effect, but with small actions by an individual, Coloradans can come together as a community to create palpable change. 303 Magazine met with Alexxa Gagner of Denver Rescue Mission (DRM) to learn ways that the average community member can contribute to help curtail this epidemic.

Get Involved With Local Shelters and Organizations

Photo courtesy of Denver Rescue Mission on Facebook

There are several organizations across the state dedicated to helping people experiencing homelessness get the resources and help they need. Looking up local shelters and organizations in your area is a great way to see how you can offer support.

DRM is committed to helping those experiencing homelessness in Denver through emergency services, rehabilitation, transitional programs and community outreach. “Everyone is different and there is no one perfect formula,” Gagner said.Often it is one person at a time that we can make an impact with through our services at DRM.”

Gagner recommends requesting a tour of a homeless shelter near you. She believes by experiencing firsthand what the shelter is like, one can learn more about what specific needs the community has and how to help. The Office of Homeless Initiative is a branch of the Department of Local Affairs and provides myriad information on resources as well as what the state of Colorado is implementing to help fight homelessness.

Financial Contribution

Photo by Anthem Branding

Donations and contributions to shelters allow them to keep their doors open. “The people of Denver and the metro area are responsible for keeping these programs up and running and could not be done without public support,” Gagner said. Since these organizations are nonprofits, they rely on donations to stay afloat. Most shelters show donors exactly where their money is going and how it will help impact those experiencing homelessness. The money goes to keeping the doors open, providing food, shelter and funding programs that directly benefit the homeless. Money-based contributions are an important way to help if one doesn’t have a lot of spare time. 

“Financial contributions keep the mission going,” Gagner said. “We’ve been serving in the community for 130 years and could not do it without contributions from generous people. Gifts you make serve our guests and participants. We provide everything from meals to shelter to programs that help individuals turn their life around. Whether you send a check or donate online, it goes directly to impacting the people we serve.” Besides straight currency, many organizations accept stocks and crypto as donations as well, allowing donations the ability to appreciate in value over time.

Donations

Food Bank

Photo courtesy of Food Bank of The Rockies.

Shelters and individuals experiencing homelessness are always in need of donations. Gagner said that socks are one of the most needed items across the world, as homeless people are constantly on their feet and socks get worn down and fall apart easily. In the winter, coats and gloves are much needed to help protect people from the harsh elements. Besides clothes, non-perishable food is also always in constant demand and donated food items take a huge amount of stress off shelters. Hygiene products like sunscreen, toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine products and soap are also useful items to donate. Hygiene is one of the many barriers that separate unsheltered people from their ability to restart their lives and causes many health issues. 

The creation of homeless survival kits is an effective way to directly support an individual. Get some waterproof ziplock bags and you can create gift bags full of essentials like hygiene products, non-perishable prepackaged food, water and clothing. Another item you can include is a small card with information on local shelters on it. DRM has a tab on its website for people to print out a service guide that includes all the relevant information for people to get the help they need through their organization. Homeless kits are useful for people who do not have time to volunteer while still directly helping someone who needs it. One can keep a few of these kits in their car and distribute them to people in need as they come across them.

Serve Meals At a Shelter and Volunteer At a Food Bank

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 46 million Americans visit food-sharing programs annually. That is 46 million Americans who have a story to tell and a way to learn those stories is to volunteer at one. “One of the best ways to get involved is to serve a meal at one of our locations,” Gagner said. “When people have that hands-on experience, they are able to come away from that learning something, or with a story or often breaking down stereotypes of people experiencing homelessness.” By actually interacting with the homeless, you gain a better understanding of what it means to experience homelessness as well as re-evaluate the harmful stereotypes associated with it. Volunteering at a local food bank is a way to do some good behind the scenes.

Join a Volunteer Group

Joining in the effort to combat homelessness can seem daunting at first. Knowing where to start is often the biggest challenge. To mitigate this, DRM and many other organizations have created volunteer groups that specialize in getting your foot in the door to accomplish as much good as you can. The Young Professionals Group offers both volunteering and events. It is a meet-up group with usually one or two of the DRM staff. Aside from this, there are many other organizations that have volunteer opportunities. Metro Caring focuses on people’s immediate need for food and works to address the core causes of poverty and hunger. Do some research and see where you can be most utilized in your community.

Educate Others and Use Compassion

Educating the public is critical for the advancement of the mission of helping others. “People tend to have stereotypes in their heads about people in need,” Gagner said. “You see someone panhandling and think if only they could get a job, or this or that. It’s not that easy, sometimes a job is what they need, but everyone is different.” By exposing the public to the trials and tribulations that homeless people face, compassion can be found for their plight and an understanding of the socioeconomic hurdles they endure.

READ: Homelessness Presents Unique Problems for Native Americans in Denver

Educating people on how the state is implementing policy to help this underserved community can only lead to a more informed and engaged community. The Denver Department of Housing Stability and Colorado Coalition for Homeless are both resources to learn more.