Featured photo: via World Housing
For the first time in seven years, the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased in the United States. In the United States there are an estimated 553,742 people experiencing homelessness on a given night, according to the most recent national point-in-time estimate (January 2017). Globally, there are more than 100 million people experiencing homelessness and another one billion people in the world without adequate shelter, a number that will double in the next 15 years. How can we as a society propel our fellow citizens out of homelessness and back into society? Its a huge question to answer, but there are some amazing ventures around the world and in the United States trying to combat this issue.
The ways individuals fall into homelessness vary all around the world. In the United States nearly 25% of people experiencing homelessness have serious mental illnesses. Another major contributor to homelessness in the United States is domestic violence, incarceration, drugs, and affordable housing. Eight of the ten states with the highest rates of homelessness (which includes Washington, DC) are among the ten most expensive places to live.
A much more sobering number is the 130,000-200,000 American Veterans who sleep on the streets each night.
If we look at homelessness on a global scale things look a little different. Of course mental health issues exist in the developing world, but the vast majority of homelessness is due to extreme poverty, civil wars, lack of resources and unstable government programs. 14% of the world’s population live in slums!
Time for a little bit of good news. In 2010, the Obama administration launched Opening Doors, the nation’s first strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Although homelessness is up for the first time in seven years, since 2010 the United States has seen a 14% decline in homelessness overall. The alleviation of homelessness has to be a joint effort. Nonprofits, businesses, and government programs all have to play a part. Below are some of those amazing organizations and ventures working hard everyday to do just that. By leveraging technology, affordable housing, and sustainability, the future possibility of a world where everyone has shelter does seem possible.
Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run overnight shelter, employs a youth-to-youth model to provide a safe and affirming environment for young adults experiencing homelessness. Y2Y guests will have opportunities to collaborate with service providers, other youth experiencing homelessness, and student volunteers to create sustainable pathways out of homelessness and develop skills for long-term success. Y2Y provides opportunities for both guests and volunteers to become the next generation’s leading advocates for youth-driven solutions to homelessness.
Mitscoots Outfitters is an innovative Austin based clothing brand that is outfitting people trying to transition out of homelessness. The co-founder of Mitscoots Outfitters, Tim Scott, volunteered in 2008 to help the less fortunate and found that right after food and water, the greatest request among the homeless was quality clothing. So, in 2012 Tim and his wife Agata launched Mitscoots Outfitters with a mission; for every item purchased, there is an equal quality item that is given to someone in need. Mitscoots Outfitters goes a step further and employs the transitioning homeless at their company!
Through contributions and partnerships, VCP is creating Veterans Village — a community of transitional tiny-homes and onsite services to provide housing stability and address the underlying cause of the Veteran’s homelessness. This combination of housing stability and onsite services will lead to more successful permanent housing outcomes. In contrast to traditional homeless services, a tiny-home provides the Veteran with privacy, a sense of security, and the ability to reintegrate at a comfortable pace. Veteran services are facilitated through an onsite community center that provides the Veterans with mentoring, case management, counseling, and linkage to other programs and services.
billionBricks was founded by a dedicated team of architects, designers, engineers and urban planners committed to solving the global housing problem in a way never done before. billionBricks is a one-of-a-kind non-profit that designs and provides shelter and infrastructure solutions for the homeless and vulnerable. Their solutions are innovative, scalable and sustainable, creating opportunities for communities to emerge out of poverty. The organizations approach empowers communities to replicate solutions on their own. This reduces dependencies on billionBricks support, creates ownership and pride, and unlocks untapped potential for change.
World Housing provides homes to families living in slums in the developing world, fostering communities where families can thrive with safety, security, and access to the resources that change lives. 14% of the world’s population live in slums. Put another way, that’s 1 out of every 7 people alive today living without hope amongst trash, sewage, drugs and abuse in unimaginable conditions. World Housing’s mission is to change that.
The Samaritan app reveals the story of individuals experiencing homelessness whom you pass by daily. You can give towards critical needs and create lifelines of hope. The Samaritan app exists to reveal the stories with those we pass everyday—the single mom on the bus, the grandfather on the street, or the homeless teen outside the supermarket—and help us respond well in these moments. When you cross paths with a Samaritan Beacon Holder, a notification will appear on your phone. Tapping on the notification provides an opportunity to read about the person’s story or contribute $1 or more towards a needed good or service (such as food, fuel or clothing). The app currently supports Beacon Holders in Seattle, WA only. Download on Android & iOS
MADI Apparel is a women’s undergarment brand with the dedication to Make a Difference domestically and globally. MADI is founded upon the principles of American manufacturing, self-sustaining fabrics/packaging and socially conscious global impact through underwear donations. Every day, because they have no where else to go, thousands of women flee from domestic violence to a shelter, often with nothing but the clothes on their back. Most shelters routinely receive clothing and household goods donations but underwear is what they need most. New, clean underwear tops the Urgent Needs List of nearly every shelter. The brand also launched MADI Donations. A direct-impact pilot program in conjunction with Hope Faith Ministries, to train homeless women in Kansas City how to sew to eventually hire for sustainable employment! Check out the interview we did with the founder of MADI Apparel.
Lava Mae is taking Radical Hospitality to the streets of San Francisco – to restore dignity, rekindle optimism, and fuel a sense of opportunity for people experiencing homelessness. The organization’s work is rooted in three beliefs: 1. Opportunity unfolds when people are treated with dignity. 2. When it comes to dignity, society has different standards for those with resources vs those who lack them. 3. Delivering radical hospitality – an unexpected level of care – to people moving through homelessness restores dignity, rekindles optimism, and fuels a sense of opportunity.
Better Shelter, in partnership with The IKEA Foundation and the UNHCR is a social enterprise that develops and provides innovative housing solutions for persons displaced by armed conflicts and natural disasters. Better Shelter is designed to help the millions of people worldwide who have fled armed conflicts, persecution or natural disasters, who have often been through traumatic experiences, and who face an uncertain and extremely vulnerable future.
New Story and ICON have partnered together to build a 3D printer specifically for the developing world and have successfully printed the first home. This innovation will mean: $4,000 for one home is the cost, it takes 12-24 hours to print the home and better quality shelter for families. One billion people live without basic shelter, linear improvements will never reach this market. The world needs a quantum leap in affordability, speed, and quality to reach families exponentially faster. New Story is a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that uses technology and innovative processes to build holistic communities in the developing world that include components like a school, clean water, and income opportunities. ICON technology enables unprecedented design collaboration and customization for New Story initiatives, increasing community buy-in. Local labor will also operate the machines, creating new advanced manufacturing jobs.
The EMPWR coat is a water-resistant jacket, which can transform into a sleeping bag, or be worn as an over-the-shoulder bag when not in use. The coat is constructed of durable, water resistant Cordura fabric from Carhartt, upcycled automotive insulation from General Motors, and other materials provided by generous donors. It costs $125 to sponsor a coat, which covers the cost of labor, materials, and overhead expenses. Sponsor a coat to be given to someone in need by making a donation here. To receive a coat for someone in need in your community, contact us by filling out our “Request a coat” form.
Back on My Feet is a national non-profit that works to revolutionize the way our society approaches people experiencing homelessness. Through the power of running, community support, and access to housing and employment resources, Back on My Feet has touched the lives of over 6,000 homeless people in America. Back on My Feet recruits members at homeless and residential facilities and begins with a commitment to run three days a week. These runs start around 5:30 in the morning and range between two to five miles long. The logic behind the initial running phase is the belief that the first step towards success is to restore confidence, strength and self-esteem.
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Founder of Causeartist // Social Entrepreneur