How To Help The Homeless During Hurricane Irma, Because This Storm Could Be Catastrophic

With Hurricane Irma barreling towards the southeastern United States, millions of Florida residents are being forced to evacuate. And while evacuation can be complicated and potentially dangerous for many people, for Floridians who are homeless, getting to safety during a storm can be especially challenging. Fortunately, a number of organizations are working to help the homeless during Hurricane Irma, and you can assist them by donating your time, money, or even your home.

Some communities in Irma's path have already taken preventative measures to ensure the safety of their homeless populations. In Miami, the estimated 1,100 homeless individuals in the city were told to enter storm shelters, or be forcibly detained for a mental health evaluation. While shocking, institutionalizing individuals against their will is in fact legal under the Baker Act, which allows authorities to detain people who present a danger to themselves or others.

“I am not going to sign suicide notes for people who are homeless in my community. I am just not going to do it," chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust said in justifying his decision to invoke the Baker Act. Other areas have homeless evacuation plans in place, but tens of thousands of individuals without homes will still be vulnerable during what is could be one of the most devastating storms in Florida's history.

Here are some ways you can help the homeless population during Hurricane Irma.

Donate or volunteer with the Red Cross

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For those of you able to give your time, the American Red Cross is offering an intensive training for those interested in being deployed on the ground in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Volunteers must be able to deploy for a minimum of 14 days over the next two months, and in exchange, the Red Cross will pay for travel, food and boarding while you are on the ground.

If for whatever reason you're not able to commit your time, you can also donate money to the Red Cross here to help them afford the resources they need to help victims.

Open up your home through Airbnb

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If you have available housing in northern Florida or the Atlanta, Georgia area, Airbnb is looking for property owners to open their homes to individuals displaced by the storm. Find the details here.

Help rebuild homes with Habitat for Humanity

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In addition to those living in homelessness prior to the storm, Irma will likely leave thousands of families homeless. Habitat for Humanity will help people rebuild them homes after storm, and while only trained disaster personnel are on the ground right now, you can sign up for the Hurricane Recovery Volunteer Registry to be kept up to date on the situation, and informed if they need volunteers to deploy, or you can donate money here.

Donate to food banks

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Organizations like Feeding Florida are working to provide food and water for people affected and displaced by the hurricane, including homeless populations. Right now, every dollar you donate will go directly to assisting those affected by Hurricane Irma. See more info here.

Volunteer to work at shelters

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Volunteer Florida is the state's leading volunteer coordination program, which helps staff shelters where the homeless and displaced will be living. If you live in Florida or nearby, VF is currently "mobilizing volunteers to staff our state’s shelters and other disaster relief organizations." Sign up here.

Donate to help homeless children

Florida is home to thousands of homeless children, who will be extremely vulnerable during the hurricane. Save the Children is setting up Child Safe Spaces in shelters where kids can be cared for, and working to support children's unique needs in a time of crisis. You can donate here.

Donate to the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is among the groups proving on-the-ground assistance for Hurricane Irma victims, including the homeless. They have mobilized food trucks and first responders to help people caught in the storm's path. Donate to their efforts here.

One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., Hurricane Irma will be devastating to those already struggling. As Florida hunkers down for the full impact of Irma, consider helping the people who will need it the most.