Each November, we recognize Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. It’s a chance not only to raise awareness of issues of hunger and homelessness that affect our nation and our communities but also a chance to give back and do acts of service that will truly make a difference in people’s lives. Hunger and homelessness affect far more people than we likely realize. It’s not just the men you see outside asking for money. It’s also the school kids who can’t afford hot lunch, and the teens surviving on one meal a day, and the women sleeping on friends couches each night. 

In 2019,  Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is November 16th through November 24th. 

Here are some startling facts: 43.1 million Americans live below the poverty line. On an average night, over half a million Americans are homeless. 20% of American children live in poverty. 

Groups that recognize Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week organize events that involve service, advocacy, fundraising, and education. If you are in a major city or near a large university, it is likely that there are already groups planning events for this week, operating food banks, holding educational events, staffing shelters, are more. I for one don’t think helping the hungry and homeless should be relegated to one single week every year. With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, it’s important to remember that there are people out there who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, who don’t know where they will sleep that night, or don’t know how they’ll handle the next cold snap. 

Let’s take some time this week and find a way to give back–big or small–and keep the hungry and the homeless in mind year round as well. 

Donate a Thanksgiving meal

You know how difficult it can be to make a Thanksgiving meal. Now imagine doing that without any money to buy a turkey, without an oven to make stuffing in. Consider donating a Thanksgiving meal to a family or individual in need. This could manifest in a few different ways. You could donate, food or money, to a food bank that puts together Thanksgiving meals. Clean out your own pantry or make a trip to the store. You could help serve at a soup kitchen or restaurant that serves free Thanksgiving meals. You could give a gift card or certificate for a free restaurant meal to someone you know needs it–either someone you see on the street, or at a shelter. 

A sock drive

Socks are the most requested item in homeless shelters. And with winter coming, having a good pair of socks can be critical for a person experiencing homelessness. If you’re on campus or in school, consider organizing a sock drive where people can buy socks and donate them to a local shelter. You could even set up an Amazon wishlist of socks and have them purchased by friends and family and donated straight to a shelter. If you want to go solo, you could just head to a local Walmart or Target and stock up on good, crew length socks and drop them off at a shelter. This small purchase can go a long way. 

Hold a sleep out

While there are lots of ways we can use money and time to donate to the hungry and homeless, advocacy and education play a huge role in encouraging more and more people to work towards eliminating hunger and homelessness altogether. A popular event on college campuses and in city parks is a “sleep out” where you organize a group of people to sleep outside. Too cold? Yeah, that doesn’t stop people who HAVE to from sleeping outside. Walk a mile in their shoes, learn what it’s like, and use it as an educational opportunity. Talk to the press about what you’re doing and get them involved in covering your advocacy. Don’t just sleep though. Talk to people experiencing homelessness. Fundraise for a better future. This isn’t about making you feel better for surviving though. It’s for getting a taste of what it could be like and raising awareness for yourself and others. You could also do a “car sleep out” in a public area, learning what’s it’s like to live out of your car for a day or two. The key here is using your experience to encourage further advocacy and education–not just being a “savior” in disguise. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member