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Homeless at Thanksgiving: How to enjoy a warm and fulfilling holiday

By: Maria Werner-- 2015-11-23 8:11 am --

Among all industrialized nations, the U.S. has the largest population of homeless women and children, with 1 in 30 children facing homelessness every year. Homelessness is a heartbreaking situation that puts individuals at an elevated risk of illness, hypothermia, and malnourishment. With the holidays upon us, being homeless is more distressing than ever. As millions across America are gathering with family, those with inadequate food and shelter feel particularly alone.

Nonprofits across the nation are devoting their time and resources to ensure that everybody can partake in the joy of the holiday. If you or a loved one is living without housing, there are a variety of services available that can offer you the food and shelter needed to enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving feast.

Where to Access Shelter

All major U.S. cities, as well as many small towns, offer shelter to homeless individuals and families. The Homeless Shelter Directory provides an updated list of all shelters throughout the country. While there are often more homeless people than local shelters can accommodate, many shelters strive to increase their capacity during wintertime by allowing people to sleep on the floor once all cots have been filled. Families, children, and elderly people are given priority, with many shelters reserving beds specifically with these groups in mind.  

If you’re denied accommodations at your local shelter, there are a variety of nonprofit organizations, such as the Catholic Charities and Salvation Army, that provide vouchers for temporary hotel and motel lodging. Many churches open their doors during the holidays as well, allowing homeless people to sleep on the floor or in spare beds throughout the church. If you have family you can stay with, Catholic Charities will often assist you by paying for part of your bus fare.

Where to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner

For a variety of reason, people all across America find themselves with no place to celebrate Thanksgiving. In response, many churches prepare a community feast that is free and open to the public. Soup kitchens also provide Thanksgiving dinner to those in need, often preparing a lavish feast that is fitted with all of your favorite Thanksgiving staples.

If you find yourself homeless this Thanksgiving, or you’re living in a food insecure situation, use this Food Pantries database to find the nearest soup kitchens and food banks near you.

How to Fulfill Your Basic Needs

Temperatures across the U.S. have already plunged to freezing conditions, and those without shelter are in a perpetual battle for warmth. It’s more important than ever to stockpile socks, blankets, winter jackets, and other personal items to ensure your family remains comfortable during the coldest time of the year. Many local nonprofits and thrift stores offer free clothing, toiletries, and bedding to low-income and homeless people. Check with your local homeless shelter, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities to attain the toiletries and clothing you need.

Homelessness has become a national epidemic, and the number of homeless in America continues to grow. If you or your family are homeless this Thanksgiving, take comfort in knowing there are people who care. With a vast array of resources available to you, you can enjoy a nourishing Thanksgiving feast in the company of neighbors and friends.