Good question. As a young, fresh nonprofit serving our homeless neighbors, we have a lot of needs that we are unable to fund on our own. We appreciate every donation that comes in, but we don't really get the chance to explain where it's going, why it's so helpful, or why the need is constant.
First, donations often go to helping our guests pay their security deposits for housing. Through their Housing Savings Account (HSA), they deposit 30% of their income to prepare for rent expenses once housing is found. If someone makes $675 a month with Social Security, they deposit around $202 per month into HSA. On HSA alone, it could take an individual nearly 4 months to save enough to cover the first month of rent and their security deposit. With subsidized housing, it may take half that time, but our goal is to get our guests into housing ASAP, as housing is a basic human need and having personal space as opposed to sharing your space with 60 other people is essential to positive mental health for any person. Your donations go to assisting our guests with their security deposits and kicking off their new home with the first months rent while they continue to save for coming months. This way, it can ensure that they do not lose their housing for falling behind on monthly rent payments.
Next, once a person is housed, they often need basics for their kitchens or living areas. Your donations can go to providing a newly housed guest with pots and pans, utensils, furniture, and other essentials such as laundry detergent, dish soap, and toiletries. It can often be difficult to afford these things once rent is paid and any money remaining (if there is any) goes into savings for the next months rent. Donations that support move-in essentials continue to allow individuals to save their money for rent so that they don't lose their housing, once again.
If donations are not going to housing or move-in essentials, it can go to maintaining our hospitality at the Drop In Center or the Overnight Shelter. This includes keeping coffee brewed freshly for our guests (since a cup of coffee costs an average of $2, and that money may not be available to an individual daily), making sure our guest bathrooms have toilet paper, soap and paper towels, keeping our stock of cleaning products up so surfaces and furniture can be disinfected. With donations we can also purchase things that keep our guests healthy and safe such as mattress pad covers, door alarms, and first aid supplies.
Sometimes, we have nights where we do not have a volunteer bringing food to the shelter. When this happens, it is our responsibility to provide a snack to our guests and while sometimes, ramen noodles are enough, we like to provide something with a little more sustenance. On these nights, we go out and purchase the supplies to make peanut butter and jelly for 70 people, plus usually granola bars or fruit. Your donations can go to helping us provide this food so that our guests are well fed and energized.
Another service we provide to our guests is bus transportation. We try to keep bus passes on hand for individuals that may have doctor's appointments, job interviews, or new jobs out of the area. However, when our funds run low, we may not be able to provide the bus passes and this could mean an individual not receiving the medical attention or medications they need on time, missing a job opportunity, or being fired from a new job that had begun to give them hope. Your donations help our guests get transportation to important appointments that they need to keep.
Finally, your donations help our guests with certain documents that can make or break their chance of getting a job or housing. If someone doesn't have an ID or birth certificate, they could automatically be taken from consideration for a job or apartment. We will fund a guests ID, birth certificate, or Social Security card if they do not have a source of income, or in special cases where someone is religiously paying into their HSA and their personal funds are low. An ID usually costs between $10-$25, so for those of you who worry that your $10 donation is not enough, it is more than enough. Every penny is used to help our guests take their next steps out of homelessness, and we could not provide these services without donations, no matter the amount.
We know that during the holiday season, a lot of people are inclined to donate to certain organizations, but with the recession and money being tight, it's difficult when you aren't sure where it is going or if it is enough to even bother with. So now you know all the different ways your donations are used at HHC, and that even $1 helps our guests.
The holidays are quickly approaching, so remember to spend a significant amount of time with the people you love, because holidays are always better with good company. Also, our guests love sending holiday cards to their family and friends, but it's a tough expense when other things are needed first. If you aren't so hot on financial donations, or you just want to take a small step to brightening someone elses holiday, we would love it if you could provide holiday greeting cards and postage for our guests to send out. We've had a few of these donations and I've personally mailed out 12 cards in the last 2 days (but that's just because my mom donated 18 cards with postage and I'm taking care of those, there are a few more).