Article: Homelessness


This page is part of Activate Good’s Triangle Cause Wiki, a collaborative online knowledge base about Triangle area issues that can be tackled by locals through volunteer action.

Table of Contents

How You Can Help

Take action! Find a local volunteer opportunity related to homelessness

About Homelessness in Our Community

Overview of Issue Impacts

When we think about what causes homelessness, we often think about addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, job loss, and disabilities… and those can all be accurate demographic characteristics of the homeless population (1). However, both mental illness and addiction are very real amongst the homeless and many people struggle with using alcohol and/or drugs to ease the symptoms of an untreated mental illness. Moreover, those same adjectives describe not only the homeless, but also those who are not. People of all kinds experience the same types of hardships. There could be someone in your own community struggling with mental illness, drug/alcohol dependency, domestic violence or other traumas, or losing their job. The difference between people who experience those challenges and become homeless and people who experience them and don’t is support. If we have a strong support system around us when something unprecedented happens, then people who care about us help us get by. Someone who is homeless could have at one point had family support and lost it because of mental illness and/or substance abuse problems. More often though, they never had that support to begin with. People who are homeless go through the same hardships as everyone else, just with lack of support (1).

More than 200,000 people (37 percent of the overall population) in America sleep outside and in other locations.  Among those who are homeless, 1 in 2 are unsheltered. It may be beneficial to examine the locations with the highest homeless counts. Such places like California, Florida, New York, and Texas. These locations share a common characteristic which is relatively large general populations with major cities and numerous towns and smaller cities (2).

Communities respond to homelessness through a variety of programs, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing. However, homeless services systems do not have enough resources to fully meet the needs of everyone experiencing homelessness. 

One easy way to help the homeless is to donate items to local organizations that provide housing or other services for the homeless. Also, you can donate canned or boxed goods to your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Rather than donating to these organizations, you can also assist them in: 

  • Packing boxes with foods for distribution to homeless people
  • Serving hot food at a soup kitchen
  • Helping homeless people transition to working a job and paying bills
  • Training homeless people in a skill like gardening or playing an instrument

Populations Affected by Issue

Fast Facts

An Activate Good volunteer works with Habitat for Humanity during the 9/11 Day of Service.


Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more.



Documentaries and Videos

Podcasts and Other Resources

Page Contributors

Thank you to the following contributors:

  • Spring 2021:
    • Robert C.

The Triangle Cause Wiki is always incomplete — there’s always new information out there, and the journey to share it is best completed together. Would you like to help us collect and share knowledge about this topic? Learn about contributing to the Triangle Cause Wiki.

Last updated April 2021

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