I’ll let Joe explain his group’s purpose and mission:
Atheists Helping the Homeless is a new, and still very small group of Atheists who are helping the homeless here in Austin, Texas, by giving them free items that fall into the category of toiletries. Not food, mainly because that’s already well covered by other help groups. Very few groups around here give out free toiletries, so we focus on filling that gap in help.
We’ve received donations of money and items to give away from all over the nation and beyond, but we need more. We need to let more Atheists know about this project, so we can help more homeless folks. (One need not be an Atheist in order to help us, but obviously it helps.)
The goals of this project are, in order of priority:
1. To help some folks in need,
2. to show by example that the idea that Atheists don’t care and don’t help people in need, is very very false, and
3. to have fun.
The location of our work is always the same, under I-35 at 7th Street. We’ve already succeeded with all three of our goals with the five giveaways we’ve done so far. We’re now doing them once per month, and the biggest challenge has been to spread the word about this all over, so we can get more donations, and help more people in need. 100% of all donations go to paying for these items we give out. We’ve also added some non-toiletries items to our list of things to give out, like gloves and socks, which are both VERY popular with the folks we help. Our next giveaway to the homeless will be on Sunday, December 20 at 8am.
Also we videotape each giveaway to show our donors what we do with their donations, and to show the world that we are well received in this effort by the folks who gather under that bridge. Here’s the link to the playlist I’ve created with videos of our giveaways: http://www.youtube.com/user/aajoeyjo#grid/user/109D143A6C9F7204
I’m glad that this group videotapes their giveaways and invites people to attend, as this is an important way of providing transparency and giving donors the assurance that their gifts are being used for good ends.
As atheism becomes more popular and influential, we can expect more atheist-driven charitable efforts to arise. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but it also means that we atheists who want to do the most good be increasingly vigilant about where we direct our efforts – that we make certain to support the groups that will do the most good, rather than those that spend our money unwisely, or those that are outright scams. Atheists Helping the Homeless, though it’s still in its startup phase, has taken important steps toward providing that assurance, and I applaud them for that.
Charitable efforts like this one offer tangible evidence that atheists are moral and compassionate human beings who care about the welfare of our fellow people. The knowledge that we have only one life should be the strongest possible motivation to do good for each other, and I’m glad to see Atheists Helping the Homeless putting this principle into action, by reaching out to those who are too often shunned or neglected by society. If you feel the same, I invite you to chip in a few dollars – because even a few can make a great deal of difference to people who have so little – and to support humans helping humans out of rational ethics and compassion, not because of superstition or religious dogma.