Guide to Donating to Homeless Shelters

In many areas, homelessness rates are rising. Out of every 10,000 people in 2018, approximately 17 were without a home at night, totaling around 500,000 Americans. Though more concentrated near larger cities, homelessness is not specific to one part of the country—it’s a symptom of a persistent problem in every single state. The causes for homelessness vary, meaning no homeless individual or family is like another. One of the important tools for tackling this multifaceted problem is the homeless shelter, which provides a bed to sleep on and resources for many people in need, no matter who they are.

Homeless shelters require the resources of people who care about their mission in the local community. Donations from people like you allow shelters to stay in operation, increase their capacity, up their supportive programming, and generally support their residents well. If you would like to know how you can best support your local shelter and how donating affects you, read our guide to donating to homeless shelters.

Your Donation Options

First, you should understand what donation can look like. Your options include donating your time, your money, and tangible supplies.


Donating your time, while difficult during this pandemic season, is always a good option, even if you have to get creative. Many homeless shelters don’t invite volunteers into the facility because they fear they would potentially spread the coronavirus to staff and residents. You can help in this tough time and in general by seeking out ways you can provide your assistance from a safe distance. For example, you can compile and send over shipments of much-needed shelter supplies while employing sanitation practices.

Some homeless shelters currently serve food through a pick-up program, which you can contribute to by safely cooking and handing out meals. Processing food orders and packaging groceries for shelters allows you to eliminate contact with others while still serving a homeless facility you care about.

Beyond these methods of volunteering, consider even more remote methods such as donating your web design knowledge to a shelter in need of a website refresh.


Perhaps the simplest method of donation is monetary. Donating your money allows a shelter the flexibility to use your gift in many potential ways. These include supporting staff, improving their existing space, growing their programming, and more. Many shelters will have a simple and trustworthy online method for donation, but if you have questions, you can contact your local shelter to inquire about donating.


The one advantage to receiving tangible items rather than using monetary donations to purchase what they need is the direct nature to receiving tangibles. Rather than wait for shipments to come in after an order, asking for certain items helps a shelter fill a need quickly. Also, sometimes the donating public can fill a need more than purchasing supplies can. For example, many shelters want clothes on hand for incoming residents, but purchasing new clothes is an unnecessary expense. Instead, taking advantage of donors’ used clothing gifts fills this need well.

Understand How Donating Affects Your Taxes

Meanwhile, you should know how all three of these forms of donation affect your taxes. Specifically, you’ll need to learn how donating affects your deductions. While it’s true you cannot claim your time spent volunteering on your taxes, the tangibles and money you donate are potentially redeemable.

Claiming Tangibles

First, claiming your donated supplies involves receiving a receipt of donation and appropriately valuing your donated items. Only registered 501(c)(3) organizations can offer these tax benefits, so be sure the organization you donate to qualifies. When you drop off supplies, shelters typically have a system in place for recognizing your donation that you can inquire about. Otherwise, you need to know how to appropriately value your donations. The Salvation Army donation valuation guide is a really helpful tool for doing this right.

Claiming Your Monetary Gifts

Claiming the money you donate is comparatively simple. You’ll still need a receipt of donation, but you don’t need to determine its deduction value. Also, when you give $250 or more, you must receive a written letter of acknowledgment that verifies your donation and inquires whether you received anything in return.

Check in With Your Local Shelter

Before you go forward with donating, check in with your local shelter to determine their current needs. While giving used clothes is a donation staple, sometimes shelters have plenty of clothing items for the time being, or only require specific garments. Ask the shelter if they have a list of items they currently need and base your donation off their needs rather than simply off of what you have piling up in your closet.

Also, checking in allows you to clarify their drop-off policies and hours. This is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic but is helpful at other times too, clearing up your confusion about where to go and potentially saving you from making a return trip.

Don’t Donate Unusable Used Things

Another important note about donating to homeless shelters—consider what utility your potential donations have left. If you donate used items, sometimes there is the temptation to give articles of clothing, devices, and more that have little value to a shelter resident or a shelter simply to be rid of these things. Be respectful to your local shelter, don’t treat them like a garbage dump, and instead consider parting with your nicer used items that would have clear utility. As you clean your home, for example, consider donating some things you would miss but don’t use all that much if they fit the needs of a homeless shelter.

Items You Can Donate

Finally, here are some examples of tangibles shelters commonly need. While many people give shirts and pants, many organizations would appreciate new or, in some cases, gently used socks, bras, and even long underwear for the colder months. Better yet, buying bulk wholesale socks and other garments new gives shelters a solid stock of quality new clothes for residents.

Another much-needed item that people don’t tend to give is feminine hygiene products, though toiletries in general are in demand. In addition, because many homeless individuals are also parents, baby wipes and diapers fill a present need for many. Also, razors, dressy clothes, and used phones all serve as tools for helping homeless individuals succeed throughout the job interview process and finally get their own place to stay.

If you feel the urge to donate to a shelter near your home, partner with us at 2moda and find quality wholesale supplies that fit their residents’ particular needs.


Guide to Donating to Homeless Shelters

Charity and donations