Helping to End Homelessness
There is a place for every type of volunteer interested in helping people who face homelessness in Ottawa. Getting involved really does make a difference to people who are the most vulnerable in our community. One way to fine-tune where your interest lies is to follow the links for the organizations listed on the member page of the Alliance to End Homelessness website (www.endhomelessnessottawa.ca), where readers can find a good cross-section of possibilities.
Consider offering your professional skills (accounting, communications, fundraising, tutoring, counselling, legal, medical) directly to community agencies, or use your money to help provide material assistance like bus passes, phone cards, grocery store gift cards or toys, to agencies helping people experiencing homelessness. Volunteers can offer supplies or equipment, or donate furniture or money to help purchase the basic supplies needed to set up a home for a newly housed homeless person or family.
Donations are a form of volunteering too if someone is able to help out financially to support a particular agency's work. Many of the organizations do have charitable status.
There is a wide range of organizations to check out. For instance, if you are interested in women's issues, you might find out what is happening at Cornerstone Housing for Women or at The Well and St Joe's Women's Centre. Interested in youth? Check out the Youth Services Bureau, Operation Come Home, John Howard Society of Ottawa or the Housing section at the YMCA-YWCA, National Capital Region.
A team from different faith communities walk in Tulipathon, a Multifaith Housing Initiative event on the first Sunday in May, and help raise awareness and funds for more affordable housing. Photo courtesy Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa.
Ever wonder what homeless people do all day and how you might be of assistance? Look into Centre 454 or Centre 507. Interested in contributing some time to the Aboriginal community? Find out more about Minwaashin Lodge/Oshki Kizis Healing Lodge or the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health.
Some people might consider volunteering at one of the men's emergency shelters, such as The Ottawa Mission, The Salvation Army Ottawa Booth Centre or the Shepherds of Good Hope. Others might work on developing affordable housing units with a group like the Multifaith Housing Initiative. People can be surprised at the scope of the activities underway to assist homeless people.
People across the community put their energy to work by writing letters or approaching politicians on behalf of those experiencing homelessness. Some volunteer on boards or committees helping agencies offer their programs.
Everyone can make a point of staying informed and passing along what they learn to their families and to their community connections. The Alliance website provides up-to date information and invites community members to follow its activities on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Alliance's "Ask Me Ottawa" campaign to stay inspired. Taking action is as easy as spreading the word. Re-post, re-tweet and share information with your friends.
Some volunteers have come up with their own creative ideas, such as the event organized last spring by eight local businessmen. They brought together 200 people for lunch and succeeded in helping one agency to provide a needed service and another three agencies to purchase items to help homeless people get set up in housing. To top it off, they generously contributed to the advocacy efforts of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa.
Lynne Browne is Executive Director of the Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa.