5 ways to help the homeless this winter

Your Community in Action!

By Area Community Services Employment & Training Council (ACSET)


Each year, communities across the country conduct a point-in-time (PIT) count of homeless individuals. On January 27, 2016, the PIT count for Kent County was 800 persons. While the majority of the homeless were in transitional or emergency shelter that particular evening, over 5% were identified as being unsheltered. This means they were sleeping without shelter in the harsh winter weather.


Our community has many shelters, serving hundreds of people each year. Every winter they are faced with an urgent need to prevent frostbite, hypothermia and even death among our homeless population. ‘Tis the season to give, so here are some ways you can help.



  1. Emergency Shelter – Warming centers and emergency overnight shelters provide temporary protection from extreme weather. A list of resources in downtown Grand Rapids can be found here. If you see someone on the streets in freezing temperatures, contact the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 2-1-1 database by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-887-1107 to get help.
  2. Give Winter Gear – shelters will accept donations of warm winter clothing, including thermal underwear, boots, coats, hats and gloves. Or you can contact a shelter to see if they have any specific needs. Again, 2-1-1 is a great resource to find a shelter near you.
  3. Volunteer – Most shelters and homeless programs are busiest during the winter months and could use more help. Contact a shelter near you to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
  4. Donate – Because this is the busiest time of year for shelters, they are using more. If you typically make an end-of-year donation, consider a monetary gift to a local shelter. You may even be able to set up a recurring donation so you keep giving throughout the year.
  5. Advocate – Advocacy means using your voice to address the root causes of homelessness, such as access to affordable housing. Whether you generate awareness on social media or make a call to your legislators about the issue, using your voice is an inexpensive way to help fight homelessness.

Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org.