Help the Homeless Rhode Island
Although numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development show a declining homeless population in Rhode Island from 2010 – 2015, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Not only do many families, individuals, and veterans battle homelessness, there is a significant amount of people dealing with poverty and distressing situations in which they need assistance. Help the Homeless Rhode Island (HTHRI) is a non-profit organization and group of concerned citizens who use social media to collect and distribute items to help those that are homeless and impoverished in Rhode Island. Their mission is to unite organizations, agencies, and communities to create a statewide effort to help those in need.
Their social media page overflows with stories of individuals and families in need in throughout the state. Day-to-day those stories change, highlighting the latest need which can include jackets for children or monetary needs for families in immediate distress. Contributing members then work together to share within their network the needs of the group. Whether it be someone who would like to donate gently used children’s clothing to a disadvantaged family or furniture for a child’s room. “Our community is vast and anyone that wants to really make a difference in the community can help,” said Andrea Smith, Founder and Board Member. “We have a distinct group of people who are deeply passionate about helping others. Our members can be as active as they would like to be.”
Help the Homeless Rhode Island began when a mom and daughter decided to pass out clothing on a bitter winter day. “It was never our intention to become Help the Homeless Rhode Island, the name was just a Facebook page that was set up to try to network with others who were already helping the homeless and for those that wanted to help. We then became known by the community as our Facebook page name, so we went with the name we were known by,” said Andrea.
HTHRI also works with other organizations, most recently teaming up with Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and iHeart Radio to collect new socks and underwear at the Dunk during the Providence Friars basketball game. They also collect items such as bus passes to donate to other organization such as Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project. “Bus passes are extremely important to the homeless and underprivileged because it helps advocacy workers get people to shelters, especially when we are experiencing freezing temperatures,” said Dawn Baker, Board Member. The list of outreach extends well beyond item collections. One weekend volunteers will make 60 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to hand out and the next weekend they may provide breakfast for people at Harrington Hall.
Current Board Members, Andrea Smith, Mark Baker, Dawn Baker, David Sweeny, Wendy Dumas, Barbara Kalil, and Robert Lavoie have big plans for the future of the non-profit. They are currently in the process of obtaining a 501(c) 3 non-profit status. And most importantly, are focused on expanding their efforts to create awareness for the homeless and underprivileged, grow their network to include more businesses and volunteers, as well as creating the model to help others organize groups in their own communities.
Want to be involved? Here’s how you can help:
- Drop-off travel size toiletries, socks, bus passes or underwear at Roger Williams Auto Sales in Warwick, Rhode Island.
- Business owners can volunteer to be a drop-off site for donations. Their goal is to have at least one business in every city make it convenient for people to donate.
- Purchase and recruit friends to purchase travel size toiletry items, socks, bus passes, and underwear.
- Host a collection in your city once a month and donate collected items to a shelter.
- Volunteer at a meal site or donate items to a meal site.
For more information about Help the Homeless Rhode Island join their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/groups/homelessri or email [email protected].