There are four basic types of corporate social responsibility (CSR):
- Environmental responsibility
- Philanthropic responsibility
- Economic responsibility
- Ethical responsibility
Business owners who believe that it is also our entrepreneurial responsibility to make the world a better place must find ways to dab into all four types. While they are all equally important, we would do well to meet the felt needs of those whose lives and safety are on the balance. One of those marginalized communities is people who are experiencing homelessness.
The private sector can do so much for homeless communities. If you own a business and want to bolster your CSR, here are some ways you and your team can help them.
Help them find temporary shelter
The most obvious way we can help people experiencing homelessness is to meet their most urgent need: Finding a safe roof over their heads. Consider partnering with non-profit organizations (NPO) who are already amid this initiative—you might find that there’s already an NPO working hard to build safe shelters for these beneficiaries.
But if you find that no NPOs are working on this yet, you can consider partnering with other businesses whose industry involves construction or other types of shelter. Don’t forget to consult with a legal professional too, perhaps an experienced eviction attorney who understands the ins and outs of your state’s housing laws. One of the first things you want to do is to ensure that everything you’re doing is above board and that you’re obeying the laws so that you don’t put your beneficiaries in more trouble and that you are not giving them more trauma.
Raise funds to help support them
Another way you can help people experiencing homelessness is by organizing fundraisers that will help provide for their day-to-day needs. With the money you raise, you can help meet their other felt needs like providing them with food and water as well as warm clothes, especially during colder months.
You can also consider using the funds to organize meal programs that will help provide them with access to high-quality and warm meals. Remember, however, that this route is not sustainable and that while helping provide for their immediate needs is necessary and noble, what they truly need is getting out of homelessness.
Help lobby for change at the policy level
One of the best things about living in the United States is that we are free to lobby our government officials for better and more human rights-centered policies. Industries and private companies are not necessarily discouraged to lobby—especially if you’re a small business that’s not doing it for your own bottom line. It’s only dubious when giant corporations do it to persuade officials to change policies to meet their own interests.
Aside from meeting the felt and urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness, you also want to contribute to finding ways to help them in the long term. Talk to your government officials about building housing for these communities, or providing them with financial aid. Consider consulting with expert lobbyists on how your business can help.
Amplify their voice
Another way you can help homeless communities is by consulting with people who have this lived experience and who were able to come out of it, and amplifying their voices. It’s not about giving them a voice, because they already have one. It’s about providing them with a platform through which they can tell their story. You can invite them to speak at fundraisers or to share their stories on your CSR’s website.
Help address their trauma
People who experience homelessness are constantly exposed to all types of dangers, and that kind of experience can lead to a lot of trauma and a host of other mental health issues. Consider partnering with a group of therapists and counselors who also want to volunteer their time to help the members of this community, and find ways to connect both sides. After meeting their physical needs, their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs also deserve being tended to, so giving them access to psychiatric help can be a wonderful way to help them start all over again.
Businesses, especially ones that are reaching their goals and finding success in their industries, have both the opportunity and the mandate to move beyond profit-making and start to center the marginalized. No matter how affluent your town or city may be, there are still most likely people who are experiencing homelessness, and that’s a good place to start doing well in terms of philanthropic and ethical responsibility.