How To Help The Homeless Stay Safe During Hurricane Matthew

The Bahamas and the United States look as though they could be the next areas to suffer the wrath of Hurricane Matthew after the storm hit Haiti, leaving a trail of destruction. After all, it's the strongest hurricane to hit the area in nearly 10 years, with winds of up to 145 miles per hour which have destroyed over 2,000 houses so far. In the United States, we may see a different problem — not houses destroyed, but people without homes in need of shelter. Here's how to help the homeless stay safe during Hurricane Matthew, both at home and in the aftermath in the Caribbean.

Already, as far as North Carolina, homeless shelters are gearing up for the storm. The Good Shepherd Center in Wilmington, North Carolina has collected extra food and water and will hang a white flag in front as a signal that bad weather is coming. "Realizing that they don't have the basic necessities. They don't have food, they don't have shelter, they don't have water. So these are basic things that we can offer anyone," Director Randy Evans told Spectrum News.

Then there are the newly homeless in places the storm has already passed through, such as Haiti. The country has been hit hard by Matthew, and to make the situation worse, it still wasn't fully on its feet after the devastating 2010 earthquake. At least five people have been killed in the hurricane, but the former director of the Health Ministry told The New York Times that there could be "maybe hundreds of dead." So in a situation that dire, finding shelter for these newly homeless families will be key. If you want to help, either here or abroad, consider these options:

Find A Homeless Shelter And Donate

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Shelters like the Good Shepherd Center always need financial support, but even moreso during a time like this. The homeless are extra vulnerable during natural disasters, and the organizations that serve them will need more support than ever. You can donate here to the Good Shepherd Center, or consider using this directory to find a homeless shelter in Florida or along the East Coast that you want to support.

Give To The Red Cross

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Homeless shelters aren't the only ones that will come to the aid of the homeless. Mainstream disaster relief groups like the Red Cross are focused on helping everyone, and they have a plan in place for the East Coast. They're hard at work already:

From Florida to New England, the Red Cross is finalizing shelter plans and preparing vehicles and supplies. Trained Red Cross disaster relief workers are being mobilized across multiple states.

You can donate to them on their website here, by calling 1-800-RED CROSS, or by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Find A Hurricane Relief Group Outside The U.S.

The American Red Cross's partner organizations do work throughout the world, but even the American chapter has helped internationally with this storm. They helped evacuate Americans from Guantanamo, and are on the ground in Haiti. That said, you might want to consider donating to a specific hurricane relief groups. They will be helping entire communities get back on their feet — including the homeless. This page has a good overview of some of the nonprofits that will be working to help in the aftermath, including everything from UNICEF to Americares. Choose the one you prefer.

Send Food To Haiti

Hunger, as well as homelessness, will be a problem after the storm. Several organizations focus solely on food safety in the disaster area, like Food for the Hungry or the UN's World Food Program. They take financial donations and turn it into food. If you'd rather send the food directly, there are places to donate in South Florida.

Donate Blood Now

If you're looking for something to do closer to home, this is also key. In the midst of the hurricane, blood drives will be put on pause, and there could be a shortage — which would affect anyone in need, including the homeless. Consider finding a place to donate now, before the storm arrives. Find a place to donate near you.

Take Care Of Yourself To Free Up First Responders

Of course, if you are living in an area that looks like it will be affected by Hurricane Matthew, don't try to save the day on your own. You could find yourself in trouble and cause more work for first responders, who need to be available to help people who didn't or couldn't find shelter. If you don't find a safe volunteering opportunity during the storm, there will be plenty after when the cleanup begins. Evacuate if there's been an order (like in South Carolina), and make sure you're in a safe place to go through the storm.

If you do see anyone who needs to seek cover, direct them to the nearest shelter. In addition to homeless shelters, there are also general shelters opening up to the public in some areas. Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida will be opening shelters on Wednesday afternoon for people at risk, as well as for the general population, including the homeless. Broward Mayor Marty Kiar told the Sun-Sentinel, "This is very serious. You need to prepare and protect you and your families."

So do that. Take care of yourself if you're in an affected area, and then look for ways to help those around you. And for those lucky enough to be far from the disaster, you have the ability to help.