In the United States, the exact age you need to be to volunteer at a homeless shelter will vary, depending on your location and the role you intend to play.
However, in most places, the ideal age for volunteering is 18 and above, but you will need to feel comfortable interacting directly with the homeless population.
It is also possible to find volunteering opportunities for minors between the ages of 15-17. Anyone who is below 15 will need to be accompanied by their parent, guardian, or teacher.
Volunteering at a homeless shelter is indeed a very exciting and rewarding experience, with the potential to impact lives in many ways.
Owing to the shortage of public funding in a vast range of areas, many such homeless shelters depend heavily on donations and the generosity of volunteers to keep going.
How to Find Homeless Shelter Volunteer Opportunities
Finding the right volunteer opportunity that aligns with a person’s age can be quite daunting; however, it is still very much possible especially owing to the plethora of information and opportunities available in the United States.
Howbeit, if you are looking to volunteer in a homeless shelter, you will want to first find out about the homeless shelters within your community. In the United States, these shelters are usually managed by local charities, churches, and other nonprofit organizations.
It is also recommended you make time to visit them in person to provide them with a copy of your resume and cover letter. You should let them know why you are willing or looking to volunteer for them and what skills you have to offer.
You also need to reach out to them electronically to indicate your willingness to volunteer. Also, there are well-known volunteer websites that post volunteer opportunities across a broad range of areas.
In these sites, it is also possible to use filters to search specifically for homeless shelters. One of the best or most well-known volunteer websites in the United States is VolunteerMatch, although the website also features homeless shelter volunteer work opportunities across England.
In addition, you can also consider using Go Volunteer because it has a searchable database of homeless shelter volunteer opportunities across the United States and Australia.
Steps to Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter in the United States
Owing to the shortage of public funding in a vast range of areas, there is an increasing need for volunteers in homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
Regardless of your age, you will find opportunities that are suitable and ideal. Below are some simple guidelines to get started volunteering:
- Start by making yourself completely accessible to the cause. You cannot be unsure or indecisive. Weigh the pros and cons before starting out.
- Research and reach out to your local homeless shelter or other non-profit organization to see if they are planning to host this type of event.
- Sign up while also making sure that you find out all you can regarding the particular needs that are presently unmet.
- Depending on your age, look into signing up for a service opportunity such as preparing food for the homeless, serving them, trying to teach them a language or other skill, or mentoring them on individual, financial, or family issues.
- Don’t forget to be open-minded and organize yourself so that you can effectively balance your family time.
Tips for Successful Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter
While it is never an easy decision, note that it can prove to be an impactful and exciting experience as long as you do the right things. If you are volunteering for the first time, below are tips to help guide you;
1. Wear the right clothing
There are numerous roles you can play in a homeless shelter and you need to take that into consideration when choosing the right clothing. Always go for clothing that is practical and comfortable enough to give you room to walk or move easily.
2. Expect the unexpected
One thing you have to understand about volunteering in a homeless shelter is that you will be dealing with a vast range of people who have distinct needs and challenges.
If you intend on volunteering in a public-facing position, don’t forget to approach every interaction with patience and compassion, regardless of how unusual or out of the ordinary it might seem.
3. Do your due diligence prior to volunteering
This is very important once you decide you want to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Note that having adequate information as well as the right details will ensure that you are better prepared to support them.
As such, before volunteering, contact any of the shelter coordinators or go through their programs to ensure you understand your role.