Helping the Homeless in Memphis

Photo by Gillian Wenhold

Photo by Gillian Wenhold


By: Lou alpert, summer 2018 creator

Over half a million people currently struggle with homelessness in the US alone, and Memphis is no exception. According to the Community Alliance for the Homeless, about 130 families rely on an emergency shelter or transitional housing in Memphis, and close to 1,000 students in Shelby County Schools are considered homeless according to The Commercial Appeal. This is a heartbreaking number, and it begs the question: What can we do to help? 

When it comes to helping people experiencing homelessness in our city, there are four things you can donate: items, food, money, and time.


This can include things like clothing, blankets, razors, soap, towels, etc. Often, it’s the little things that really help, like donating an old hat or jacket. Shelters and organizations such as Dress for Success Memphis, which helps provide women with professional clothing and support to achieve economic success, Memphis Union Mission, and Habitat ReStores will take slightly used or worn clothing. You can call and see what they could use, or simply ask someone what they are in need of. Here on a hot day in Memphis a hat or nice water bottle are drastically go a long way.


Often a day of homelessness brings with it a day of hunger. Canned goods and other foods that don’t spoil quickly are extremely helpful. There is probably a lot of food in your house that goes uneaten. Memphis food banks and soup kitchens such as Mid-South Food BankCatholic Charities of West Tennessee, and many churches (St. John’sHoly TrinityGrace-St. Luke’s, and more) are greatly in need of food donations. Call and ask what they need.


It is the easiest and most common type of donation that helps the homeless. Money helps pay for housing, food, clothing, education, healthcare, and more. Every homeless shelter in Memphis has a website which you can donate to online. Even small donations go a long way. Memphis shelters such as Dorothy Day House,Door of Hope Memphis, and Memphis Union Mission could all greatly use your contributions.


Often the most fulfilling and generous form of donating you can do is donating your time. Look for shelters or food banks that need volunteers such as MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) which supports vulnerable seniors and families in crisis or Habitat for Humanity which builds and helps sustain affordable homing. However, donating your time does not have to mean directly volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter. It can also include helping someone find employment, or advocating at your church or business to hire the homeless. An example of this is The Bridge which is a Memphis organization that pairs student writers and editors with homeless vendors. Vendors buy the student written newspapers for $0.25 and sell them for $1.00 keeping all of the profit. The Bridge has helped many Memphians turn their lives around. Finally, donating your time can also include reaching out to shelters and food banks, asking what they need, and then getting your community to come together and give.

All four of these options are helpful, generous, and greatly needed. With your help we can end homelessness in Memphis, one person at a time. While the organizations included in this blog were put under specific categories, most of them overlap (for example while the Dorothy Day House needs money, it also needs people to volunteer their time). Additionally, more general links on how to help and where to help are below. Thank you for caring about our people and our city.

Stay tuned for more from tips on how to help the Memphis community.