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5 ways to care about homelessness in San Francisco

In January 2019, more than 8,000 people were experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, 17 percent more than two years prior, according to the 2019 San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey.

The phenomenon is not isolated. In fact, homelessness has grown for the second year in a row throughout the United States; it’s even being called an epidemic. On a single night in 2018, roughly 553,000 people were experiencing homelessness across the nation, with the highest concentrations in states including California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. 

Since its inception, The Salvation Army has sought to bring positive change to the lives of those experiencing homelessness. In light of the national—and Western U.S.—trends, Salvation Army Western Territorial Commander Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder launched The Way Out—an initiative to double the Western Territory’s impact on homelessness between now and 2024.

“In every community we’re going to do what that community needs to have done in order to address this problem,” Hodder told New Frontier Chronicle. “That will look different in different communities, because homelessness spans a spectrum of issues. There are prevention issues, there are crisis issues, there are housing issues, there are addiction problems, there are long-term educational issues. It’s a full range…but The Salvation Army, in this part of the country, has determined we simply must do something about it.”

While The Salvation Army in San Francisco is refining its plan for doubling its impact on homelessness, there are many existing ways it is currently serving the population. While the issue is vast, and getting involved can seem overwhelming on a personal level, there are actions you can take to care about homelessness in San Francisco. Here’s five ways you can join the fight for good.

1. Create hygiene kits for homeless outreach

On Monday and Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. until noon at the San Francisco Service Center, The Salvation Army works to create kits of essential hygiene items for those experiencing homelessness that are comprised of gently used supplies donated by major hotels in the city. Each year, the effort results in more than 1,500 kits that are then distributed at a large-scale outreach event held in mid-May. The opportunity is perfect for groups, too, and the Service Center can accommodate up to 20 volunteers at a time.

Get involved here. 

2. Make and distribute meals

Twice a week, The Salvation Army organizes homeless outreach teams to venture into the city to distribute food to those on the streets. Each Wednesday, volunteers from the San Francisco Harbor Light Center gather to make sandwiches and distribute them to those in the Civic Center area. On Friday evenings, another team distributes food in the 6th and Market area. 

Get involved by emailing Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Doppler at Melissa.Doppler@usw.salvationarmy.org

3. Get your corporate team involved

While The Salvation Army in San Francisco’s budget accommodates two weekly outreach feedings, Doppler says a third night is often added when a corporate team wants to volunteer and cover the cost. Are you and your coworkers looking to give back? 

Get involved by emailing Volunteer Coordinator Melissa Doppler at Melissa.Doppler@usw.salvationarmy.org 

4. Educate yourself on the issue

Read the 2019 San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey to learn more about homelessness in San Francisco. From reading the report, you’ll learn the important facts and figures, but you’ll also dig deeper into the causes of homelessness and the obstacles to obtaining permanent housing.   

5. Give

Donate to The Salvation Army in San Francisco to fight homelessness in the city. Your gift can help those experiencing homelessness. A $100 donation to The Salvation Army can provide three nights of shelter for those in need. 

Know of another way to get involved in fighting homelessness in San Francisco? Comment below.


Do Good: 

  • Choose one of the five ways to get involved in fighting homelessness in San Francisco and commit to doing so this week.
  • Visit westernusa.salvationarmy.org to find The Salvation Army nearest you. 
  • Give to support the fight for good in your community.
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Hillary Jackson

Hillary Jackson is Managing Editor of Caring, where she keeps her finger on the pulse of The Salvation Army and her eyes on the day’s headlines—all in the name of creating smart, impactful content that prompts action. With an insatiable love of information and heart for the underdog, she believes stories to be one of the best ways to understand and empathize with others. Hillary has worked around the world covering the Olympic Games, and her words have appeared in outlets including Washington Post, The Week, The Muse and Architectural Digest. Hillary holds a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was a finalist for a pair of National Arts and Entertainment Journalism (NAEJ) Awards as well as for the Religion Newswriters Association’s Chandler Student Award for “The PK Project,” a multimedia experience chronicling the stereotypes facing preacher’s kids versus reality. When she’s not word slinging, you’ll find her walking her West Highland Terrier, Nessie.