Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

Homelessness and Jewish Poor

Lend a Hand Program: A Program to Assist the Homeless

During the cold winter months, the homeless and the poor are in special need of our help. Poverty knows no cultural, racial, or religious boundaries. There are needy Jews among us. There are needy veterans among us. As Jews, tzedakah (charity) is our special obligation. Let’s lend a hand.

Many JWV Posts are already doing their part. You can learn from them, do some investigating within your community, and begin your Post’s Lend a Hand Program.

The problems of the needy are acute in urban areas. Though some people may not want to believe it, there are hungry Jews in the city. There are Jews without money to pay for heat. There are Jews who are alone at holiday times. There are Jewish children who go without. JWV works to assist these people, to provide them with the basic necessities, mostly through collection drives. People are pitching in with money, clothing, furniture, and food.

A pressing need in most urban areas is for transporting the elderly to doctors, synagogues, and to the local cemeteries where they can visit the graves of loved ones.

How can your Post start a worthwhile project? Just a little bit of organized effort will start you on your way. Take the first step.

Step 1: Lend a Hand Committee

Select a motivated, hard working individual to coordinate your Post’s program. Have your coordinator select a team of five or six assistants.

Step 2: Gather Information

Contact the local Jewish Family Service, Social Service Agency, JCC, Vet Center, or VA facility. These agencies know the particular needs of the poor in your community, can give your program direction, and help you avoid wasting your efforts. Ask these questions: What programs exist for homeless or poor Jews and/or veterans? What types of projects are underway among other organizations? In what way can JWV best serve the homeless and poor in this community?

Step 3: Select Your Project and Create a Plan of Action

Pick a project that is doable. If your great idea requires 12 helpers and you have only three, scale it down. A small project, successfully completed, is far better than a grand plan that may never be accomplished. Write a project plan that responds to the need you have identified. Include the goals you hope to achieve through the project.

Step 4: Promote the Program

Tell your members and the general public what you plan to do. Design a simple flier explaining your Post’s Lend a Hand project. Your flier should be specific as to the items and/or volunteer service you require. Make sure a contact name and phone number is clearly noted. Ask for immediate assistance. Make the instructions clear and to the point. Pick a deadline date for the project. Write news releases about the new project. Send them to the local press. Contact the local radio stations. Many stations will accept public service announcements (PSAs) of 15, 30, and 60 seconds in duration. Write an announcement, time it, and send it in.

Step 5: Take Action

Once your project is in progress, report the status of activities to your membership and leadership frequently. The more communication about your project, the more enthusiasm builds, and the greater the response. Talk it up!

Step 6: Evaluate your Completed Project

When you have finished your project, write a report which evaluates your work. Ask these questions: Did the project meet the goals set? What problems occurred? How can these problems be avoided in future projects? Should this be an ongoing project or a one-time event?

Step 7: Promote Your Efforts

Never let an activity go by without praising those hard working individuals who made it happen. Say thanks to all the volunteers in your Post's newsletter. Write thank you letters. Do not forget to follow-up with a news release to the media. This time, advise the public of the success of your Lend a Hand project.

Step 8: Feel Good!

Enjoy the gratification that comes from helping others.

Suggested Projects

  • Collect canned goods and non-perishable dry foods
  • Hold a clothing drive
  • Form a transportation pool
  • Organize a visit to a vet program
  • Assist at homeless shelters
  • Raise funds to be contributed toward utility bills of poor
  • Raise funds/purchase first aid and grooming kits for needy
  • Offer to provide a weekly or monthly meal at a local shelter, synagogue, or church

For additional program suggestions contact the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.