County of San Diego employees during a previous homeless count. Photo: County of San Diego

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless, United Way of San Diego County and San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward unveiled an online portal Monday to connect would-be volunteers with nonprofit organizations focused on homelessness.

The San Diego Homelessness Volunteer Network is intended to be a centralized volunteering hub where prospective volunteers can offer their skills and connect with local nonprofits dedicated to ending homelessness. All partner organizations are vetted to ensure prospective volunteers can find a nonprofit that fits them best.

“The San Diego Homelessness Volunteer Network is something I have long advocated for, and I am honored to be a part of its development and launch,” Ward said. “Now more than ever before, we need to work to help our fellow San Diegans living on the street or in shelters. The San Diego Homelessness Volunteer Network is an amazing resource that will no doubt drive meaningful impact.”

The RTFH’s 2019 point-in-time homeless count and survey in January found a minimum of 8,100 sheltered and unsheltered homeless residents in San Diego County, down from 2018’s observed total of 8,576 residents and 2017’s total of 9,116 residents.

Many of those residents deal with mental health challenges or need assistance to gain access to job training and housing. The city and county of San Diego both have programs to offer such assistance and services, but homelessness advocates have called for increased collaboration between nonprofits and government programs to combat homelessness.

“While the causes and solutions to homelessness are complex, there is much that volunteers can do to help,” RTFH CEO Tamera Kohler said. “Regardless of your skills, interests, age, or resources, there are ways you can make a difference. Volunteering your time to work directly with people experiencing homelessness is one of the best ways to learn about homelessness, and help to meet immediate needs at the same time.”

Volunteering opportunities can be found at sdhomelessnessvolunteernetwork.org.

— City News Service