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Gratitude in Practice: 4 Ways You Can Help the Homeless Community in LA This Winter Season

It’s safe to say that this year isn’t what anyone had expected for the start of a new decade. November is passing by as quickly as it has approached us, and it certainly feels as though all the months leading up to it have been playing a collective role in the fever dream that is 2020. Amidst the perpetuating uncertainties of a global pandemic and the strain it has put on our physical and mental health, along with the dismal reminder of the systemic injustices facing America today and the recent presidential election, many of us are understandably burned out and lacking a mentality abundant in positivity and gratitude. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the thought of picking apart things to be thankful for can feel like adding insult to injury. However, gratitude isn’t a concept that needs to be boastful or extravagant. Though times are most likely less than ideal right now, if you’re reading this, chances are you still have access to the internet, a safe place to stay this winter, food on your table and clothes to wear to keep warm. Some communities currently don’t have any of those resources at all, and they still need to get through the winter season, one day at a time. If you’re looking for a way to express your gratitude for the small things this Thanksgiving season, consider giving back to the community by providing some love to those who are less fortunate than you are. Here are 4 ways that you can make a difference in their lives: 

Donate In-Kind Goods

In-kind goods are goods other than cash, so think services or tangible items like clothing, blankets and non-perishables. There are numerous local homeless shelters and neighborhood outreach groups that accept donations, and some even have Amazon wish lists that are available online. These lists are easy to access, and the items you purchase will be shipped directly to that shelter and distributed to the people who need them. The Downtown Women’s Center is in need of these kinds of goods, and Ktown For All is in need of blankets, sleeping bags, tarps and tents. Consider researching more shelters near you that need other types of affordable goods and services. 

Be Kind and Say Hello

A person experiencing homelessness is also experiencing a lot more than that. Many passerbyer’s tend to look onward, away or even ignore them when walking in the streets. By just acknowledging them as another person in front of you, saying hello and making eye contact, you are providing them with a little bit of kindness that goes a longer way than you may think. It isn’t often that they are met with such consideration, so small acts like that might actually make their entire day or week. 

Volunteer Your Time

Though volunteering might look a little different this year due to social distancing policies put in place for COVID-19, there are still a number of ways that you can help. Many non-profit organizations and homeless shelters rely on volunteers to keep their essential operations running. Certain organizations have already established virtual volunteering programs, one of them being Project Homeless Connect. PHC has announced on its website the launching of their virtual project entitled “Compassion In Place,” which features conversations about compassion in the community during a time like this. In addition to these virtual programs, you can also reach out to the organization to ask if there is a specific service they need that you can provide while following socially-distant guidelines, such as distributing hygiene kits throughout the city or putting together sanitized care packages for the community. 

Advocate For Community Resources

You can make a long-term difference in the community by educating yourself on the policies that are directly affecting your city and getting involved in local government. Do your research, participate in public meetings and advocate for better policies from lawmakers. Write emails to the public officials in your city and demand stricter protection of tenant rights. Above all, don’t underestimate the power you have in your community, and speak up for those who can’t.

These are just some of the ways in which you can give back to your community this Thanksgiving season, but remember, you can make a difference at any time of year. The homeless community deserves long-term and substantial relief, and you can be the catalyst for this change by using the ample amount of resources available to you. No matter how you choose to help, remember to do so with gratitude and compassion.

Shannon Mia Vo is a third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Disability Studies. This is her second year writing for UCLA's chapter of Her Campus, and her first year as Assistant Director of Editorial, so she is excited to learn as she goes. Shannon loves to write and believes that words are an essential catalyst for storytelling, education, advocacy, and expression. When she isn't writing, she can be found crafting, rewatching her favorite sitcoms, working out, or browsing through booktok!
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