The Bowery Mission on How to Give Back
Homelessness in the United States is at an all-time high, with over 553,000 people across the country living on the streets according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest report on homelessness for 2018. Of that number 78,676 are New Yorkers – or roughly 14% of the nation’s homeless population – a 3 percent increase over last year’s report.
Yet, though homelessness is certainly a crisis in New York City, it can be confusing to know what to do when encountering an individual experiencing homelessness. On the one hand, you want to help, but on the other hand, authorities often remind people not to give away money or swipe a MetroCard for those asking for it.
In order to find out how you can best make a difference, we spoke to Blair Nordby, Development Officer at The Bowery Mission, which has been providing services like meals, shelter and clothing to the homeless since the 1870’s. Nordby shared her advice on ways to give back and help out – and her advice starts with the attitude people have toward the homeless population.
"I think some misconceptions, at least about the community, is that these people are very different than me. When really, there’s a variety of different types of people who come in. Some people have jobs, some people may be younger, older," Nordby says, "We find our volunteers are often surprised that these people aren’t really as different from themselves as they may think, even though their life circumstance is different."
(If you are interested in working with the Bowery Mission, Related is organizing a series of volunteer opportunities with the organization over the next few months. During our first dinner in September, we served 253 meals. Check your email and the Related Connect app to learn about the next opportunity to volunteer).
Nordby’s advice below.
- Volunteer: The Bowery Mission serves an average of 653,000 meals per year, and all of them are served by volunteers. You can easily sign up for a time slot that works for you on The Bowery Mission’s website, or through our Related outreach. Not in New York City? Nordby encourages those who want to help to look into what organizations seem to be doing important work in their community, and then find a way to get involved.
- Organize a drive: Don’t have time to volunteer? Organizing food and clothing drives at work or social functions is a great way to raise necessary supplies for organizations like The Bowery Mission, which rely on such support.
- Donate: Yes, money is always appreciated. And if you’re uncomfortable giving to a person on the subway or on the street, giving to an organization like The Bowery Mission is a great way to financially support the cause. “Every gift matters and helps The Bowery Mission continue to serve those in need.” Nordby says.
- Treat the homeless with respect: Homelessness is not an easy issue to address or think about, and so often we tend to push past it, ignoring the homeless people around us. Bowery Mission puts a lot of emphasis on creating a hospitable and welcome environment for everyone who passes through its doors, and Nordby encourages those who want to make a difference to start thinking about ways to interact with the homeless people they see around them in a more friendly way. “If you see the same person every on your street corner consider saying hi and asking their name. It’s simple, but it shows kindness and reminds someone of their dignity,” Nordby says, “Making gestures like this contributes to a better city and is one way to start addressing the crisis of homelessness.”
The Related Life is written and produced by Related Luxury Rentals. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest events, news and announcements in your area, and tag us for a chance to be featured @therelatedlife and #therelatedlife.