The holiday season is a time for giving thanks and giving back. It is a period where families can come together (safely and potentially remotely during a pandemic) to show their appreciation and enjoy each other’s company.
Despite the general holiday cheer, not everyone’s Christmas and New Year’s is going to be merry and bright. For many kids and teens, the December holidays serve as reminders for what they lost this year and what their peers have over them.
You can make a big difference in the holidays for homeless youth – even if you aren’t able to donate money or give back large gifts. Follow these steps to help those in need during the holiday season to give a bleak situation a little light.
Rethink Your Idea of Homelessness
The first step to help homeless youth is to consider who you want to reach out to. At Family Resources, there are several young residents at our SafePlace2B shelters, many of which never imagined celebrating the holidays away from their families. Our staff members do their best to make the holidays cheery and create some positive experiences, but it is no replacement for having a home of your own.
However, homeless youth aren’t always away from their parents and in a shelter. Many homeless families are still together, staying in temporary housing with a friend or relative. Homeless youth might also live in cars, couch surf with friends, and find ways to hide their current situation.
“The face of homelessness is children and families, and these children are in school every day alongside children who are in permanent housing,” Randi Levine, policy coordinator for Advocates for Children of New York, tells CNN.
Homeless youth often learn and play alongside peers who have more than them. This means you can help these kids in many ways this year – both in how you give to them and how you treat your own kids.
Avoid Giving Big Ticket Items from “Santa”
If you have children of your own, you might be tempted to give them several gifts each year from Santa. However, this can lead to feelings of inequality in children from lower-income families and homeless youth who are still young enough to believe in the cheery old elf. If Santa gives gifts to all good boys and girls, why would he give one child an iPad or new bike while another child receives small, used toys?
“Hoping that Santa will bring you something — anything — for Christmas may be the one sliver of hope you have in an otherwise bleak holiday season,” Bobbi Dempsey writes at USA Today. “But seeing that Santa gave other kids half the toy store while he may have skipped your house completely only reinforces your feelings of being ‘less than’ other kids.”
Instead, Dempsey implores families to be clear that big-ticket items come from mom and dad. Santa’s gifts should be smaller – maybe a candy bar, a coloring book and some crayons, or a stuffed animal with a special message. This can help younger kids keep believing in Santa without feeling that they aren’t worth any nice toys.
Donate Money and Items to Create Christmases
Donating money to organizations like Family Resources can help make sure homeless youth in your area have a Merry Christmas amongst other holidays. We have knowledgeable staff and volunteers who can identify needs within the community and provide comfort and support for local Pinellas and Manatee County residents.
You can also gather items together to make sure homeless youth receive gifts and other essentials this year.
- Look for items that can be assembled into hygiene kits for homeless youth. You can check out our Amazon wishlist to see what we need and what you and other community members can buy. Consider asking friends and family members to fill stockings with items that can be easily collected and donated.
- Pick up essentials for homeless youth when you shop for your family. For example, look for buy-one-get-one socks when shopping so you can donate the second pack.
- Host a holiday school supply drive to prepare students for the spring semester. Many students have used up their donated supplies for the fall and still need items for the Spring months.
- Partner with local organizations to give toys to families in need. The St. Petersburg YMCA has a Neighbor to Neighbor Christmas Program and you can donate to the Pinellas Toys for Tots chapter.
You can donate toys, supplies, and gifts on an individual level, or challenge your coworkers to help you support Pinellas homeless youth. When everyone pitches in a little, you can have a major impact on the local community.
The holiday season is full of fun activities and events, but it can also be stressful. This year, families are trying to make do with smaller get-togethers, virtual Santa appointments, and by finding new ways to celebrate. Throughout this time, focus on kindness and spreading compassion and care to people around you.
A smile and nod to someone in your community can go a long way. Reaching out to a family that has been having a difficult time during the pandemic can have a big impact. The weather in Florida is nice enough that you can have a socially-distant meal together outside in a park or backyard. This year is going to be pared back as it is, let us use the time to rethink what the meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays are really about.
Help Family Resources Create Holidays for Homeless Youth
At Family Resources, we appreciate any contribution to help our SafePlace2B shelters serve homeless youth and help them through the holiday season. If you are able to this year, please consider donating to our organization so we can help our residents have an enjoyable holiday season.
Outside of the holidays, there are other ways you can help homeless youth in your area. Read one of our earlier articles on 7 Surprising Items to Help the Homeless to find items that can help those in need and learn Why Florida Has Such a High Rate of LGBT Homeless Youth. You can help us build a support system for homeless youth in your community and become an advocate for kids and teens who need help.