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Warm the Homeless 2024 – Campaign Update

Thank you to everyone who donated to our Warm The Homeless campaign! Because of you, we were able to raise $300 to help people get through the roughest parts of winter. This year, we partnered with Ellie Elle, a kind soul in Pennsylvania who took it upon herself to help people without homes in her area.

warm the homeless

Some of our Missouri VIA volunteers were also able to distribute blankets and coats to people in their area. Check out the photos from the campaign!

Again, a big “thank you” to our regular donors, and those who contributed specifically to this campaign. We can help people because of you!

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Warmth for All: A Call to Action for Winter Coat Donations

As winter’s icy grip tightens, millions of people around the world face the harsh reality of cold weather without adequate protection. While many of us take warmth for granted, there are countless individuals, families, and children who struggle to stay warm during the coldest months of the year. This is where our collective compassion and generosity can make a profound difference.

At Voluntaryism In Action, we want to help everyone stay warm during the cold months, regardless of their circumstances. That’s why we’ve launched our annual Warm The Homeless drive, with the aim of providing essential winter coats to those in need. Through the generosity of donors like you, we can ensure that vulnerable individuals and families have the warmth and protection they need to thrive during the winter season.

The need for winter coat donations is especially critical for marginalized communities, including the homeless, refugees, low-income families, and individuals living in poverty. For them, a warm coat isn’t just a comfort—it’s a lifeline against the biting cold and a safeguard for their health and well-being. Without adequate protection from the elements, they are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other serious health complications.

By donating to our winter coat drive, you can directly impact the lives of those in need. Your contribution will enable us to purchase high-quality winter coats in various sizes, styles, and colors to accommodate individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Whether it’s a child walking to school, a senior citizen navigating icy sidewalks, or a homeless individual seeking refuge from the cold, your donation will provide essential warmth and protection to those who need it most.

Moreover, donating to our winter coat drive is not just about providing physical warmth—it’s about showing compassion and solidarity with our neighbors in need. It’s about recognizing our shared humanity and standing together to support one another during challenging times. Your act of generosity will send a powerful message of care and compassion to those who may feel forgotten or overlooked by society.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  1. Donate Financially: Your monetary donations allow us to purchase brand-new winter coats in bulk at discounted prices, maximizing the impact of your contribution.

2. Donate Gently Used Coats: If you have gently used winter coats that you no longer need, consider donating them to your local shelter, food bank, or other charitable organization—even handing them out to people yourself. Your pre-loved coats can provide warmth and comfort to someone in need.

3. Spread the Word: Help us raise awareness about our winter coat drive by sharing our campaign on social media, talking to friends and family, or organizing a coat collection event in your community.

4. Volunteer: If you’re passionate about helping others, consider volunteering your time and skills to assist with coat distribution, fundraising events, or other aspects of our winter coat drive.

Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most. As the cold weather sets in, let’s come together as a community to ensure that everyone has access to the warmth and protection they deserve. Thank you for your generosity and compassion. With your support, we can provide warmth for all this winter and beyond.

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Houston Mayor Begins Targeting Volunteers With Police

Houston Food Not Bombs is a local group of independent volunteers that provides meals to the homeless people of downtown Houston. CHRON reports that the group is one of many that is “under attack” by a decade old ordinance that is now being enforced as the city was drawing near to its host date of this year’s 2023 NCAA Final Four. They are now facing crackdowns from Houston PD thanks to the mayor’s direction.

              The issue began with the city’s deciding to now start enforcing a controversial charitable feeding ordinance law that was passed back in 2012. The ordinance states that anyone providing meals to more than five people in need require permission from the property owner to do so, even on public property. This meant the only approved public location was at the same site as Houston PD’s police property room.

Houston Mayor Begins Targeting Volunteers With Police
Food Not Bombs volunteers Tilal Ahmed, center, and Shere Dore provide a meal to a man looking for food by the Houston Public Library - Central Library, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Houston. Credit: Marie D. De Jesús/CHRON staff photographer

For groups such as Houston Food Not Bombs to be successful they’re adamant it is best to come to the people in need, wherever they may be. One of their best sites for providing meals is the plaza in front of the downtown Central Library. Where they noticed that Houston PD put up notices threatening fines and tickets for charity groups after February 24th. The first ticket for these violations was given to a member of Houston Food Not Bombs on March 1st. After the initial ticket multiple members of their group as well as a member of a separate religious group providing meals for the homeless have been issued. The Houston PD has also gone beyond ticketing and threatening arrest for one member, Shere Dore, after she received her second ticket. Shere Dore also does volunteer work with a few Islamic organizations that have been feeding people in need by the library, doing the volunteer work four nights a week. She says their efforts help feed hundreds of people on a single night, Tuesdays being the busiest and feeding upwards to 250 people in a single night.

The looming threats of Houston PD moving on to arrests has already caused a drop in the number of volunteers being found helping the many homeless people in the area.  Dore said the threat has already caused one of the Islamic groups she works for to relocate to the official city-sanctioned area. While others have paused their work to assess the risks and what they should do next. “This appears to be the first instance of anyone in Houston being ticketed under this horrific law. The mayor is taking HPD’s time and efforts away from violent crimes, human trafficking, and corruption in government, and sending cops to intimidate people who are doing nothing wrong, and are in fact helping the city’s most vulnerable. He should be ashamed of himself,” said Houston Food Not Bombs volunteer Nick Cooper.

              Mary Benton, director of communications for the office of Mayor Sylvester Turner, defended the new crackdowns on volunteers saying there was, “an increase in the number of threats and violence incidents directed at visitors and employees.” Benton was also quoted saying, “Parents and families have expressed they no longer feel comfortable visiting the library or holding special events. We hope the library can serve as a safe, inclusive place for all to come and visit. That’s why we are providing a dedicated, alternative charitable food service at 61 Riesner Street. This location has the infrastructure and amenities needed to provide services and food to Houstonians in need. By shifting food services to an alternative location, we can maintain the integrity and historic nature of Houston’s Public Library while serving all Houstonians with the dignity they deserve.”

              Benton also provided one news outlet with a version of the notices that were posted at the library before the police began enforcing the controversial ordinance. Stating the city is, “informing citizens about the updated Houston Health Department rules and regulations governing charitable food service events on public property.” The notice saying, “The city supports, and is grateful for, the charitable food services provided throughout the City. To assist efforts, the City is providing an appropriate location with necessary requirements for a safe, clean, and respectful environment.”

              Dore however is skeptical about the city’s statement as to why they have decided to now start enforcing the ordinance. She believes it’s really being done as a means to “clean up” downtown and revitalize it as a hot spot as the city will be hosting the NCAA Final Four. Other advocates also say that volunteer groups and those they help feed being targeting doesn’t fall in line with Houston’s recent claims of being a beacon for fighting homelessness. Some find the move particularly odd as volunteers faced no threats of jail or tickets for doing the same work when the city hosted other major events such as Super Bowl LI in 2017. Although during those events the homeless Houstonians themselves were targeted by sweeps, tickets, and arrests.

              Dore is also critical of the city’s bold claims to successfully addressing the homelessness issue it faces. She did volunteer work for the Salvation Army as well as other non-profits in 2014 thru 2015. The goal of the work was to get an accurate count of the homeless in the city. But according to her the numbers don’t add up. “The more people you count, the more money you get.” She stated in reference to tax and grant money used for the project. Nick Cooper said, “There is so much data that Homeless Counts are inaccurate. And shockingly, the counts are conducted by those who only get funding when the number of homeless go down.”  The language used by the mayor also speaks volumes to the groups and the homeless alike with statements like, “retaking the Central Library Downtown.”

              The first Houston Food Not Bombs member to be ticketed has already filed a lawsuit against the city. Although it’s not the first time the law has been challenged via the judicial branch, it is the first in a long time. The others were dismissed due to a “lack of cause” but with the issuing of tickets and threats of arrest they are hopeful the case can move forward. Food Not Bombs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida successfully won a similar case against a city ordinance. The defense being that the sharing of food with Food Not Bomb’s central Anti-War, Pro-Vegetarian message are worthy of constitutional protection under the first amendment.

              Dore says the unhoused and food-insecure served by the various volunteer groups in Houston are standing behind the groups and their fight against the unjust ordinance. They are hopeful the city will repeal the ordinance. “The homeless are people too, and they deserve to be respected.” Says Dore.

              Sadly, Houston is far from the only city to enforce such measures against those simply helping others in their time of need. It is all too common to see law enforcement doing the bidding of lawmakers against citizens trying to make a difference. Whether it’s through fines, threats of prison, or even destroying food and goods made available for those in need, there are far too many examples of the state using force against peaceful people trying to make their communities a better place. 

             

 

             

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Winter Care Packages 2023

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to our Winter Care Packages charity campaign! Thanks to you, we were able to raise enough money to purchase hundreds of hygiene kits, warm socks, blankets, and winter coats for homeless and needy people.

This year, we distributed through First Fruits, an organization founded and staffed by Missourian Jeffrey Moore. Moore started his efforts by purchasing extra food and taking it to people in shopping bags. As the years passed, he formed partnerships with local businesses, eventually forming into a 501C3 nonprofit.

winter care packages
VIA Volunteer Jeff loading donated items into Moore's van. Moore declined to appear in photographs, saying "It's not about me."

Although a 501C3 sounds fancy, it’s still just Moore giving out donated items to people. He estimates that there are >3,000 homeless people living between Kansas City and Butler, MO. Now, thanks to your generous donations, he has more coats, socks, gloves, and more to give out to people suffering in the cold Missouri winter. More people helped…because of your voluntary giving! Here’s hoping that next year’s Winter Care Package drive will let us help even more people.

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Seattle Govt Orders Volunteers to Stop Giving Aid to Homeless

We Heart Seattle is a volunteer team that decided it was time to take action in addressing issues facing the homeless population in the city of Seattle. The efforts started off small. They were mostly aimed at picking up the large amounts of trash left by and around homeless settlements. The group claims to have picked up over 320,000 pounds of litter and garbage. They’ve also been able to get nearly 70 people the resources needed to get off the streets and turn things around. Unfortunately the city of Seattle does not approve of the group and their efforts and they have been told to stop giving aid to homeless people.

Andrea Suarez of We Heart Seattle got invited to a zoom meeting with Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss and a number of other city leaders. Suarez said, “Having cleared more than 100,00 pounds of trash and housing at least five people from (Strauss’) district, I assumed the call would be to thank our volunteers and include us in further outreach efforts.”

stop giving aid to homeless
Friendly volunteers helping clean up their community. Image courtesy of We Heart Seattle.

Instead she was caught off-guard by the ambush, as she puts it, from the government. She was even told by REACH officials that her group’s efforts were “disruptive and confusing to the hard work of REACH and the Human Services Department has already been doing in Ballard Commons and Shilshole Avenue.” “I’m still asking myself, ‘when did volunteerism become disruptive?’” Suarez said in an interview with The Dori Monson Show.

The city’s main complaint was that the effort violated protocol and local laws on how camps should be handled and essentially destroyed. Suarez also points to union turf disputes between Seattle Parks and Seattle Public utilities about who picks up what trash from where. These disputes lead to the large accumulation of trash found in and around homeless encampments.

stop giving aid to homeless

Despite the city coming down on her and her group she has no plans on stopping the good work she is doing for the homeless of Seattle. “I’m going to keep volunteering.”, she said. Her efforts cost nothing from the state or taxpayers while the official preferred response costs millions and have managed to lead to very little assistance reaching those who need it.

This is far from the first time the state has ordered volunteers to stop giving aid to homeless people in need. There are countless stories every year about people being harassed, fined, and even facing jail time simply for helping others without going through the state and its bureaucracy.

We’ve highlighted a couple of these previously here at Voluntaryism In Action. One is a story about the government stalling food donations in the middle of winter. Another about a carpenter in Toronto who was building shelters for free for the homeless being told to stop what he was doing. 

We here at Voluntaryism In Action firmly believe the world would be a much better place if the state would simply get out of the way of the people, especially in their efforts to give aid to those who need it the most.

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