The Cold Reality of Homelessness


Two recent surveys report that 62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair. Over 20% don’t even have a savings account.

For this majority of Americans who live on the financial edge, one modest emergency, or one missed paycheck, can be the beginning of a catastrophic downward spiral. The desperate people flooding homeless shelters? They are people just like you and me – our brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, and sons – fellow Americans who have hit the financial bottom that is terrifyingly close for so many.

The problem is daunting; the victims are real.

Volunteer your time

Organizations providing services for the homeless need help – not just during the holidays. You can find a partial listing of service providers on NCH’s Directory of Local Homeless Service Organizations.

In the Valley, there are two local shelters supported by Win Win for a Cause donations – PACEM (People and Churches Engaged in Ministry) and WARM (Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry). WARM provides an emergency thermal shelter from November to March of each year. During these winter months they provide shelter, transportation, community referrals, linens, and some personal care and basic need items to homeless adults at no cost.

Here are some ways you might help:

  • Volunteer at a shelter. There are so many ways you can help. Take an evening or overnight shift. Help with clerical work such as answering phones, typing, filing, or sorting mail. Serve food, wash dishes, or sort and distribute clothes.
  • Help build or fix up houses or shelters. Check with your local public housing authority or shelter to find out how to put your skills to use. You can also find the nearest chapter of Habitat for Humanity by calling (800) 422-4828 or visiting
  • Skills training – teach what you know. Workforce re-entry programs may be able to use your knowledge of skills, including secretarial, catering, plumbing, accounting, management, carpentry, public relations, fundraising, legal, writing, child care, construction, tutoring, or mentoring.
  • Share hobbies. Teach your hobbies to people staying at a homeless shelter. The interaction itself may be more important than you could even imagine.
  • Invite people to a community event.  Homelessness is isolating and the homeless often feel invisible. Invite people who are experiencing homelessness to a worship service, public concert or picnic, city council meeting, etc.
  • Work with children. Ask if there are children who could benefit from tutors or mentors. A field trip, a workshop, a book reading – there are so many ways to bring some joy and hope to the children staying in homeless shelters.

Encourage others to help! Ask your classmates, co-workers, friends, family, church/synagogue members, or civic club to join or support your efforts.

Acknowledgement of the homeless and their individual plights is the first step to making impactful change. Smile and really see the person and not just their situation. Then, go out and do some good.

Please share your experience, insight, and hope.


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