How you can help the less fortunate this holiday season

Those of us lucky enough to hunker down for a long Thanksgiving weekend stuffed with feasting and gratitude may be looking for concrete ways of giving thanks this holiday season.

One way to do that is to support people living without homes in the greater Los Angles community. We spoke to representatives of several homeless shelters and service providers across the region to find out what types of donations best serve their needs, so you can “adopt” one and help all year, not just during the holidays.

As you can see, it’s not all about shelling out big amounts of money. In fact, many of the facilities we spoke to are looking for relatively inexpensive items, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste or a packet of underwear. If you cut coupons and watch for discounts, you could supply many of these items year-round without putting much of a dent in your wallet.

Don’t see your local community on this list? Reach out to your local shelter and ask: “What can I do to help?”

Raynetta Smith, development and communications manager of the Los Angeles Youth Network, which helps foster and homeless youths: “For Thanksgiving, we’re doing a fundraising campaign. We spend about $17,000 per month to feed our youth, so we’re really trying to encourage individuals to donate. We don’t typically take a lot of food donations, but we’re always in need of hygiene products, undergarments, socks, underwear and sports bras — but everything has to be new.”

Jessica Sneed, executive director of the Salvation Army in Glendale: “Nonperishable food is a big one for us, specifically anything related to a traditional or ethnic Thanksgiving meal that we’re able to distribute to families. We also need socks, jackets, gloves, blankets, tarps and umbrellas, so that when people have lost their items in recent sweeps we’re able to replace them. Small-size travel toiletries are very helpful, as well as any food item that can be prepared without access to a stove — like cups of noodles, canned food with pull-tabs that don't need can openers, granola bars, things like that.” 

Annemarie Howse, development coordinator of Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women & Children in Los Angeles: “We provide housing for up to 93 women and 45 children a night…. We can always use new household items, which would include things like new blankets, sheets, towels, pots, pans, dishes and silverware. We also provide move-out packages to women who move onto permanent housing, so we like to set them up with toasters, coffee makers, things like that. Right now we’re also really needing four or five new youth mattresses.”

Jonathan Thompson, executive director for Good Seed’s housing services for young adults in Los Angeles: “Our young men can always use new socks and underwear … having a fresh pair is definitely refreshing, right? Hygiene kits are always good, as are school supplies, jackets and sleeping bags. We’re able to take gently used items, as long as it’s clean and in good condition.”

Stephanie Harris, director of volunteer and community programs at Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena: “For Thanksgiving we have our largest event of the year —  dinner for 2,000 people in Central Park in Pasadena. We have wish lists for that and our Christmas event on our website at — and every little bit helps, honestly.”

Tyran Crudup, chief executive of At the Fountain Transitional Living in Compton: “Basically, we’re in the midst of a bed shortage and one thing we don't receive enough of is blankets. We can also use hygiene kits that come with things like deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste and socks.”


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