Engaging community and neighborhood groups is important because they can give people a "hands on" experience to really draw them into the cause in a meaningful way.

It is people helping people.

There are intangible benefits to engaging the general public that can pave the way to concrete results. Civic engagement can humanize the experience of homelessness, demystifying those who are without homes and promote awareness.

Example of Community Groups' initiatives to end homelessness include:

Asset Development

Across Massachusetts, volunteers mobilize every year to assist low and moderate income earners prepare their taxes. Offered by the IRS and the Department of Revenue, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that reduces the tax burden on workers, reduces income inequality and helps low income families build assets. It also gives them critically needed income which could help them stay in their homes.

Among its partners are countless community-based organizations throughout Massachusetts that operate Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites with the help of volunteer tax counselors to prepare and e-file tax returns for low income taxpayers.

For more information about the Massachusetts EITC Campaign, general and detailed information about the federal and state EITC, or for information about becoming a volunteer, please visit http://www.mass.gov/anf/masseitc.

Education

Many community groups recruit and activate volunteers to tutor for ESOL and GED programs, positioning low income earners over the long term with the knowledge and credentials to collect a greater income. In addition some run financial workshops to help families budget and avoid foreclosure, such as CAPIC's Family Network Literacy Fair. Other examples include NSCAP, which engage volunteers as homework tutors for high school students, working with Salem Cyberspace, a community technology center helping low income families learn computer skills to qualify for better jobs and to perform better in high school.

Donations

Community Based Organizations across Massachusetts work to address every need of homeless individuals and families and those in danger of becoming homeless. While this includes longer term life changes like asset development and financial and academic education, it also includes things that most people take for granted like the provision of furniture and house wares, to families transitioning from shelters into housing. They engage large businesses, school groups, and faith-based communities in collecting and sorting the items for furniture banks.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (MCH), located in Lynn advocates to end homelessness statewide. Through their furniture bank, they were able to serve 3,200 families transitioning into or struggling to stay in their homes last year.

New Home Preparation

Taking furniture and house ware donations one step further, MCH is now working on a program where groups of people from local businesses and organizations work to ready a home right before a family transitions out of shelter. This will include painting, collecting and setting up the furniture and houseware, and filling the cabinets with food so that families making this significant step will not be moving into a house, but a home on their first day.