Surveys have shown that conservatives are some of the most charitable people in the country. Through we may not support big government programs, we do love to give back to our communities. Personally, I love when I’m serving at the soup kitchen, tutoring at the book bank or helping plan for a youth shelter and people find out I’m a conservative. They’re aghast, because far too few people realize that giving back to your community is not, and should be not, a partisan issue. I give back because my community gave so much to me and I want to pay it forward.

When I moved to New Haven for college, I was confronted by the reality of homelessness in the city. I knew I wanted to give back in some meaningful way, even if it was unrealistic for me to expect that I could solve all of the problems facing the people around me. Here are some of my top tips for helping people in your community who are experiencing homelessness. I didn’t realize it until I moved to a big city, but homelessness is prevalent across the country, and there are ways that you can help as a college student or young adult.

Food rescue

One of the largest waste issues at universities arise from dining halls and other food establishments. What does your dining hall do with the food that is left over at the end of the dinner hour? Likely, they cannot reserve it for the next day, or they don’t. What about local restaurants? Do they throw their bread and coffee out every night? Help combat waste and help the less fortunate in your neighborhood by setting up a food rescue program that takes this otherwise good, but unsellable food (for whatever reason, likely bureaucratic ones) and make sure it goes to people who might otherwise not have something to eat that night. Partnerships between restaurants, dining halls, and soup kitchens or shelters can be beneficial for all. All it takes is one person to propose this solution and take the initiative and the whole town could follow suit.

Donate outerwear

What do you do with those old coats and scarves that are taking up space in your closet despite the fact that you replaced them with this year’s fashionable pea coat and vest? Make them useful and donate them to a local school or shelter for use by the less fortunate in your community. If you’re like me and wear smaller sizes, you might have better luck donating directly to school resource centers or shelters that allow children and their families. Larger men are also always in need of donated clothes at shelters if your boyfriend, husband, or father is looking for somewhere to donate the coats he hasn’t worn in years.

Collect and donate feminine hygiene products

You likely take your easy access to pads and tampons for granted. Imagine being a woman living on the street or in a shelter and the panic that would ensue around that time of the month. Luckily, feminine hygiene product drives are growing in popularity now that this issue is being discussed. You can join in by collecting them from your friends or holding a donation drive outside of a local CVS or Rite-Aid. Coordinate with a women’s shelter near you for maximum effect.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen

Sometimes the best service you can give is serving others. It’s amazing what one afternoon at a soup kitchen will do for your soul and to help the community. Too often, soup kitchens and other food service places for homeless individuals are understaffed. This limits the amount of patrons they are able to serve. I find that unacceptable. I always try to serve at a soup kitchen or free breakfast café whenever I can. The people-to-people interactions you will have are unforgettable and you’ll get to see the fruits of your labor in full stomachs at the end of the night.

Run a sock drive

Another necessity, that people experiencing homelessness are often without, is socks. Think about it. Many transient individuals are, by nature, on their feet often and without a lot of options for footwear. Having new socks can really be a saving grace. Coordinate a sock drive at your university where people can donate new packs of socks to go towards a local shelter or be distributed to those living on the street. The Christmas gift you take for granted could be the best gift for someone in need.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member