With so many factors contributing to how and why people end up on the streets, it's not surprising that homelessness transcends borders. It is a worldwide epidemic, with an estimated 100 million people living homeless.

Whether it be a lost job due to a failing economy, mental illness, or poverty, it is rarely someones choice to live without a roof over their head. Across the globe, people are in need of life's most basic resources and services, and you can make it your mission to aid them and the communities they live in.

Photo credit: garryknight.

Philippines

With the highest homeless rate in the world, It is reported that 70,000 people are without homes in Manila alone. Even more alarming, throughout the whole country there are an estimated 1.2 million children who live on the streets. If volunteering with children is a priority of yours, this country could definitely use your help.

United States

Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. all have some of the highest homeless rates in the world, making the United States a destination that can always use volunteers. There are about 3.5 million displaced Americans across the country, so you can get creative with where exactly you want to volunteer.

India

There are over 1.7 million people without shelter in India and even more living in slums. More than 90 million people make less than a dollar a day, putting them under the poverty line. There are many ways to volunteer your time with homeless communities and slums throughout India.

While exploring project types, consider what you are passionate about. There are often opportunities to link academic or professional work with volunteer work or to learn a new skill throughout your volunteering experience.

Medical Care

Nurses, doctors, therapists, and other health professionals can all generously volunteer their skills to aid in a number of ways. Those who don't have homes likely don't have access to advance medical care, meaning those trained in this profession have a unique opportunity to help these individuals.

In some cases, you will have the opportunity to work at medical clinics in local communities. You skills will likely be assessed, and you will then be placed accordingly.

Food Insecurity

Not much is more important than food when it comes to helping the homeless, and there are always opportunities at soup kitchens, food banks, and homeless shelters across the globe. More than just feeding the homeless, you can often find programs where volunteers educate parents on nutrition so that they are better able to care for their child and themselves in their restricted living conditions.

Housing/Shelter

Whether you are getting down and dirty building houses for poverty stricken families or working to develop shelters in local communities, this is a great way to get involved. In some countries, the shelters may not have adequate living conditions.

In Mumbai, for example, there have been reports of people preferring to sleep outside in the freezing cold. As a volunteer, you may have the opportunity to take part in a project that improves those conditions.

Education

One of the best ways to try and help children and adults living on the streets is to educate them. In some countries, like the Philippines, there is a big push to teach children and adults English, which will hopefully open up new opportunities for them later in life.

Volunteers may also have the chance to teach individuals useful life skills that they can use to apply for jobs or to make a living, like computer skills or professional development.

Quality of Life

Once basic needs are met, there is no denying that a few of the greatest ways to help homeless communities is by volunteering your efforts towards prevention and integration. For example, there are programs available where you can help improve children's skills and self confidence so that they have the abilities to cope with the struggles of their day to day lives. You can also help adults learn to thrive by teaching then valuable life skills that they can apply to motivate and put themselves ahead.

Choosing a Program

For a project to be successful, it is important to choose to help in a way that you feel comfortable with, while also keeping an eye out for projects that have sustainable initiatives, contacts with certified local organizations, and a transparent purpose.

There are so many basic human needs that aren't met, so volunteering with the homeless allows you to pick a program that suits your personal skills. After you have chosen how you are going to help, choose a location that has an opportunity that suites your specific desires. How long do you want to volunteer? What is your budget like? Are you picky about housing?

Housing

During your trip, you will most likely be housed in shared accommodation with other volunteers in the community where you will be doing most of your volunteer work. It can also be possible to arrange a home stay. There is a chance that you my have to arrange your own accommodation, so be sure you understand what is provided.

Questions to Ask

When choosing a program, there are a variety of things to consider.

  • Are you volunteering in a way that is satisfying for you?
  • Do you have the skills necessary to really help those involved?
  • How many other volunteers there will be?
  • Is the company is reputable?
  • Will they help you arrange a visa if necessary?
  • Do they set up accommodation?
  • Do they provide transportation?
  • What is included in the program fees?
Contributed by Ellie Taylor

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