Before COVID-19, the national homelessness systems were under-resourced. This has only gotten worse with the health and economic crises of 2020, according to NBC News.
Shelters are experiencing crowding, making the required six feet of social distance almost impossible to maintain, and there is a lack of reliable access to water, soap and hand sanitizer. Rates of chronic diseases, mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders are higher among the homeless, and their poor living conditions and lack of quality nutrition can make COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless communities devastating, according to Direct Relief.
There are resources available to those struggling with homelessness, and there are also opportunities for those who want to help the homeless community.
A list of local shelters and 16 housing resources for homeless people struggling with specific needs such as addiction, abuse and sexual assault, pregnancy, developmental disabilities and youth in Colorado Springs can be found here.
This link also provides additional resources, such as places in the area that offer pet assistance, medical and mental health care assistance, grocery assistance, legal services, youth services, day-labor opportunities and more.
There are many ways one can get involved and volunteer to help combat homelessness. According to the Feeding America website, “51% of all food programs rely entirely on volunteers.”
The Care and Share Foodbank is currently looking for volunteers in Colorado Springs. According to their website, they are offering online orientation videos during COVID-19 and anyone aged 9 or older can volunteer.
Volunteer opportunities are currently limited due to the pandemic, but the foodbank needs volunteers who can teach others how to cook, help others apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), work in the distribution center and work in the welcome office.
The Volunteers of America program served 141,894 Coloradans in 2019, according to their website. They have a Denver branch that Coloradans can volunteer at, and there is also a link on their website where donations can be made.
The FoodPantries.org website lists over 35 hunger resources and food pantries in Colorado Springs, many of which are constantly looking for volunteers.
The Marion House Kitchen serves meals for homeless, struggling families and seniors, low-income households, veterans and those with disabilities and people can apply to volunteer at this soup kitchen on their website
The Springs Rescue Mission, a source that offers hot meals, shelter, showers and laundry services, states on their website that they are “stretching (themselves) thin to provide care during the crisis” and asks for help through volunteering or donations.
Homelessness has increased in the US every year for the past three years. In 2017, over half a million Americans were homeless, with more struggling with hunger and poverty, according to Volunteers of America. COVID-19 has raised the rates of unemployment, and as these rates rise, so do further predictions for homelessness in the US with some predicting close to a 50% increase over the next year, states the NBC News website.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are resources available, and all these resources constantly need helping hands for them to continue their services.