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How to Support Homeless Shelters During the Holidays

Elderly woman outside, cold, unhoused.


Imagine a winter night when you're snugly wrapped in a warm blanket, sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace.


Now, picture those who don't have a home to return to, facing the biting cold and uncertainty. This holiday season, let's be the warmth they desperately need. 


The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many, but for those experiencing homelessness, it can be an especially trying period. The plummeting temperatures, lack of shelter, and feelings of isolation make this time of year exceptionally difficult. Your support can make a world of difference and bring warmth and hope to those who need it most. 


In this blog post, we will explore various ways you can make a positive impact on homeless shelters and the lives of those they serve during the holiday season. We'll discuss donation options, volunteering opportunities and solutions to support the unhoused population beyond the holidays. 


At ShiftLink, we know your time matters. We know your work matters. Interrupting your focus on caring for others to perform the time-consuming task of filling shifts in a pinch is frustrating at best. ShiftLink is not a band-aid fix. It is a response to your deepest need — to spend more time on what truly matters. We have created a software that will ease every pain point related to shift scheduling. Request a demo today or send us an email to learn more.  



The Reality of Being Unhoused 

In most cases, the reality of being unhoused couldn’t be farther from the stereotypes. 


According to Statistics Canada, it is estimated that an average of 235,000 people in Canada experience one of the many types of homelessness each year. The majority of unhoused individuals are women (52%) between the ages of 35-44 years old.  


Being unhoused can happen to people from all walks of life, including veterans, LGBTQ+ youth, families, and individuals with varying levels of education. Many unhoused individuals have faced unexpected life circumstances that led to their situation.  


Common Causes of Unhousedness 


Economic Factors
  • Job Loss or Underemployment: Sudden loss of income or low-paying jobs can make it difficult to afford housing. 

  • Medical Expenses: Medical emergencies and healthcare costs can lead to financial instability. 

  • High Cost of Living: Rising rent and housing costs have had a big impact in many areas. 

  • Lack of Affordable Housing: The lack of affordable housing is a significant contributor to being unhoused. With the housing market constantly on the rise, there is a gap between income levels and housing costs. There is also limited availability of low-income housing options. 

  • Family Breakdown: Family-related issues can result in being unhoused. One example is youth who are kicked out of their homes due to conflicts related to their identity, sexual orientation, or other reasons. There is also an increasing number of families experiencing domestic violence or instability within the household. 



Ways to Support Homeless Shelters 

Support looks different for everyone. Some may offer money, some may offer time. Regardless of how you show support, know that it makes a significant impact on the individuals being unhoused, both during the holiday season but also year-round. 


Woman handing volunteer box of food.


Donation Options 

  • Monetary Donations: Your financial contributions go a long way in helping shelters cover operational costs, provide essential services, and support ongoing programs. There are many secure online donation platforms or reputable charities that facilitate monetary donations. 

  • In-kind Donations (clothing, blankets, food): You can provide tangible items like warm clothing, blankets, and non-perishable food items to shelters. Call ahead to find out what items are typically needed and how to donate them (e.g., drop-off locations, collection drives). 



  • Opportunities at Shelters: There are various volunteer opportunities available at homeless shelters, such as serving meals, organizing donation drives, providing administrative support, or offering companionship. There is a lengthy process of becoming a volunteer, which typically involves required training and background checks. 

  • Organizing Holiday Events for Homeless Individuals: Consider organizing or participating in holiday-themed events at shelters, like gift exchanges, festive meals, or entertainment. You can coordinate with shelter staff to plan and execute such events effectively. 


Spreading Awareness 

  • Sharing Stories and Testimonials: There is immense power in a story. Share the personal stories and testimonials you learn and raise awareness about homelessness to inspire others to get involved. 

  • Utilizing Social Media to Promote Shelter Initiatives: Social media can amplify the message of the need for increased support for homeless shelters. Create shareable content using relevant hashtags and collaborate with shelters on social media campaigns. 



Tips for Maximizing Your Impact 


How to Make the Most of Your Donations and Efforts 

You can maximize the impact of both monetary and in-kind donations by researching shelters' specific needs, opting for high-impact items, and utilizing matching gift programs if available. Make sure you prioritize responsible giving, such as verifying the legitimacy of charities and ensuring donations are used effectively. 


Ensure Your Support is Sustainable Beyond the Holiday Season 

Homelessness does not end when the holidays do. When you’re supporting the homeless shelter this holiday season, pay close attention to their needs. Listen to the shelter staff and hear out their concerns.  


Try to continue your support beyond the holiday season by considering a long-term involvement. This can be achieved by setting up recurring donations to ensure consistent financial support, committing to regular volunteering shifts to provide ongoing assistance, and participating in awareness campaigns throughout the year to keep the issue in the public eye and promote lasting change. 



Initiatives and Solutions (Beyond the Holidays) 

We believe that there are solutions available, and we can make a big impact on the lives of those who are unhoused. 


Volunteer holding clothes at homeless shelter.


Advocacy Efforts to Change Public Perception 

Advocacy helps reshape the public perception of unhoused individuals by actively confronting stereotypes and dispelling misconceptions.


By spotlighting impactful advocacy campaigns, organizations, or individuals that have tirelessly worked to raise awareness and drive policy changes, we can prove how advocacy not only sheds light on the realities of those being unhoused but also fosters empathy, compassion, and a deeper understanding within society, ultimately leading to more compassionate and informed attitudes toward this vulnerable population.


The Role of Education and Awareness Campaigns 

Educational initiatives and awareness campaigns are powerful tools for challenging stereotypes about unhoused individuals, as they not only debunk myths but also cultivate empathy and humanize those experiencing unhousedness.  


We can educate the public about the multifaceted nature of those unhoused so we can demonstrate how the strategic use of diverse media platforms, including social media and community events, can amplify the message, bridge knowledge gaps, and promote a more compassionate and nuanced understanding of this pressing social issue. 


Collaborative Efforts to Combat this Issue 

There is significance in the collaborative efforts involving government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and the community in addressing those unhoused.  


By pooling resources and expertise, we can find holistic solutions like housing, mental health services, and employment opportunities. This demonstrates the transformative impact of collective action in addressing the multifaceted challenges of unhousedness. 



Let’s Challenge the Stereotypes 

To challenge stereotypes about the unhoused, we want to highlight the often-overlooked positive contributions of unhoused individuals, from resilience to resourcefulness.  


By doing so, we aim to foster empathy and understanding, encouraging readers to see beyond preconceived notions and view unhoused individuals as fellow human beings facing unique challenges.  


Let’s use compassionate and non-stigmatizing language when discussing the unhoused population, as word choices can play a crucial role in reshaping perceptions and dismantling stereotypes. 


We have the power to create a better future for everyone.  


At ShiftLink, we know your time matters. We know your work matters. Interrupting your focus on caring for others to perform the time-consuming task of filling shifts in a pinch is frustrating at best. ShiftLink is not a band-aid fix. It is a response to your deepest need — to spend more time on what truly matters. We have created a software that will ease every pain point related to shift scheduling. Request a demo today or send us an email to learn more.  




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