The Albany Helping Hands Homeless Shelter started 18 years ago when a local pastor saw a need to help the homeless population in Albany, Oregon. His vision began in a Volkswagen Van feeding the homeless sandwiches in the park. Today, Albany Helping Hands Homeless Shelter has expanded into two building, able to house 110 guests, seven days a week, while providing three meals a day to residents and the public.

During the summer, Albany Helping Hands houses about 70 residents a day. In the winter, they are at full capacity. On average, residents stay seven months; some tend to stay longer. 30% of the residents are mentally ill with no place to go and 10% are disabled waiting for their social security.

The shelter provides opportunities for guests to work at the shelter, in the garden and market, and/or at the thrift store. Some guests have jobs but live at the shelter because they do not have enough money to live on their own. If a guest has a job, they participate in a savings plan which helps them get back on their feet and promote healthy habits.

Residents who work at the garden sell the produce in the garden market and do garden up-keep. The garden is located on Highway 20, one mile outside of Albany, on eight acres of land. The garden has corn, a variety of tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, squash, and much more. During our visit, we helped clear out the squash patch by getting rid of the weeds. With the garden and food donations, the shelter has a six month food supply; however, they lack fruits and vegetables during the winter season.

Other activities are available for residents to participate in: splitting firewood; selling Christmas trees, wreaths, and poinsettias during the holiday season; GED classes (the shelter pays for the test), computer classes – word processing, internet, and email; resume and job retention workshops. Albany Helping Hands also provides guests with counseling, drug and alcohol support programs - Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and anger management classes (a new and popular series).

The shelter has recently created a reading class for residents. And, in the future, the shelter plans on bringing in a dietarian to help the kitchen staff cook healthier dishes for their residents. 1/3 of the shelter’s population has severe medical issues like diabetics. In addition to creating a healthier environment, the shelter is working on getting glasses for guests in need of them.

OSU SIFE would like to thank Albany Helping Hands Homeless Shelter for providing us with an overview of their program and a chance to volunteer at their garden. The staff and volunteers at the shelter have amazing hearts and do so much to create a healthy and safe environment for their guests.

For additional information about Albany Helping Hands Homeless Shelter, you can visit their website at

- Carol

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