{This series of posts is intended to provide practical, easy ways to help your community — regardless of your location. In celebration of Thanksgiving and the pending holidays, may we want less and love more.}

Downtowner in Flag


Last week I met the new executive director of Flagstaff Shelter Services. She’s young, dynamic and, well … pissed. The need for fair, safe, affordable housing this northern Arizona city proves quite the challenge. As Rolling Stone once put it, “Flagstaff is poverty with a view.”


Flagstaff is like many, many cities around the world. There are too few jobs, too many people and a lot of folks living on the street. Flag has a couple big employers, and for everyone, an exhausting combination of white and blue collar jobs to get by. This town could be Golden, Colorado. Kearney, Nebraska. Galway, Ireland. Its poverty and hunger are not unique.

I’m not any more prepared to solve all the factors to this mountain town’s homelessness issue. I can, however, point out a few ways we can all help homeless shelters in any community.

1. Ask. Talk with staff and see what the biggest need is. Flagstaff needs toilet paper. They spend $500 a week now, which is not sustainable for a fragile budget and increasing client lists.

2. Donate without restriction. Sure, we all want our funds to go to program expenses. But someone has to pay for the copy toner too.

3. You’ve got talents your local community shelter needs. Could you mend blankets? Write a grant? Shingle the roof? Don’t be shy. If you can focus your strengths to make the organization better, everyone wins. Be specific when asking to volunteer.

typical Flag

What do we really need this holiday season?