Charities offer different types of assistance such as food assistance, emergency shelters, help with paying utility bills, free clothing, mortgage help, rental assistance, legal assistance, and counselling. Because of the broad range of difference assistance offered, Charities are some of the best sources for emergency assistance — especially if you can’t get access to any government assistance programs (which often take a while to apply for and get acceptance). So if you are in desperate need of (fast) help of any sort and have nowhere else to turn, we highly recommend you contact a local charity program and ask what help is available. Chances are you will be given assistance or referred to an agency/program that can offer you help.
Charity assistance is often funded by community donations and/or government grants, so the funding tends to be limited. As such you might have to play a numbers game when looking into charity help. Don’t just contact one charity, but contact ALL charity organizations in your local area and at the national level. This is the best way to ensure you get the help you need.
Major Charities Offering General Assistance
The biggest charities serve the entire United States (and even internationally). These are well-funded charities that you’ve likely heard about. The advantage here is that national charities are often given large government aid and because of their ‘name’ often receive lots of donations from the public as well. The downside is that they are the first charity assistance that people in need seek out, which means the funding can be limited (and you may have to wait on a list).
One of the largest charity programs in the United States; The Salvation Army operates thousands of local Salvation Army centres around the United States in pretty much every major (and minor) city. The Salvation Army offers one of the most comprehensive charity assistance programs with food banks, rent assistance, free clothing, emergency shelters, and a wide array of counselling services.
Along with the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities is one of the largest national charity groups in the United States and has helped thousands and thousands of people in the US. It’s essentially a loosely organized network of catholic churches who pool their resources together into a national charity association. A full range of assistance programs for the needy are offered here. Next to the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities is your best bet for assistance.
American Red Cross
Famous for offering medical and food assistance internationally, American Red Cross also has a comprehensive assistance program domestically in the United States as well. Some of their programs offer assistance with electric and heating bills. They also offer (arguably specialize in) emergency disaster assistance.
One of the largest charity organizations in the US, one that specializes in organizing food banks and food handouts to the needy across the US. Go to www.feedingamerica.org
Forbs.com rates this as the highest revenue charity program in the US, which took over 4 billion in 2012 in revenues and donations. You can call their TOLL free number to ask about their assistance programs: Toll free: 1-800-543-7709.
Another source of charity aid are local churches. Some churches do have emergency shelters, food pantries, or other programs – usually funded via donations from church members. Aid is of course limited since funds depend solely on local donations. We recommend you contact all the churches in your area about what sort of assistance (if any) is offered; if a specific church does not offer assistance, they might be able to refer you to another church in the area that does.
Ministries from UMC
Another networked church charity that provides basic assistance to the needy. Assistance specifically includes free food handouts, emergency shelter, medical care assistance, and transportation help. To get information on this program, go to their website to find a local affiliated ministry or call the number on the website to inquire: www.umc.org/resources/find-a-church
Jewish Federation of North America
Despite the name, this charity offers assistance to anyone in need – not just Jewish persons. The Jewish Federation of North America teams up with a number of charities to offer assistance. Some of the programs offered target self-sufficiency education, help searching for jobs, and some limited financial assistance to help with bills, food, and basic medications. Specialized help is also offered to senior citizens.
The Urban League
This charity specializes in helping those who have jobs but remain in poverty. The usual run of assistance is offered, but The Urban League focuses quite a bit on education and job search assistance. The Urban League does offer medical assistance such as discount or free prescription drug programs. There are also some housing assistance provided as well and the charity works with HUD housing programs as well.
A charity / community assistance program with branches across North America. Most people are familiar with the YMCA from their fitness and community centre neighbourhood facilities but don’t realize that YMCA is actually a thriving and very active charity as well. Some of the programs offered by the YMCA target job training for self-sufficiency, food assistance, and assistance for households with children.
Volunteers of America
A charity service with the stated goal of preventing homelessness in America. Offers the typical assistance programs such as long and short term shelters, job training, senior citizen assistance, and other aid programs.
The Assistance League
A program that offers some assistance in the form of clothing, food stuff, and packages for children going to school. Of the charities listed here, Assistance League caters specifically for children. So if you have kids, this might be a charity to look into.
A long established religious charity that offers assistance to families experiencing difficult. Assistance can be food items, shelter, limited financial assistance to pay bills, etc. keep in mind funding for this charity is usually quite limited so the amount of help available depends completely on what’s been donated.
A religious charity that offers assistance to households experiencing extreme difficulty. The assistance is limited and is a one-time assistance which can be financial to help with bills. Other assistance given can include food, holiday gift packages (Christmas and Thanksgiving), and other assistance that targets children’s needs.
This charity service can help with financial assistance for emergency utility bills. The organization focuses more on senior citizens and households with children, to which a major part of their funding is allocated to helping — so if you are a household that includes one of those, you stand a good chance of getting some assistance. Unlike many of the other charity organizations on this list, Net Wish was funded by a rich individual and not a network of organizations, churches, or donations. As such, Net Wish operates a bit differently than normal charities. There may be less rules in place and it’s possible to get emergency funds very quickly if you can prove your case. The maximum cash grant amount distributed per household is $500. To apply, you must go to their website: http://netwish.org. Keep in mind due to high volume of requests now, the funding is limited.
A charity that specializes in helping veterans or other ex military personal who are in a financial bind. The assistance distributed consists of emergency cash grants, free furniture, transportation assistance (repair or rides), counselling services, free computer usage services, home repair assistance, moving assistance, prescription eye care help, and other services. So if you have served in the army at one point, you should look into Operation Homefront. Call their number to contact them: Call them at 210-659-7756
Medical Care Charities
These are SOME charities that offer discounted medical services, free medical assistance, free prescription medications, and other such services.
This organization distributes cash grants to assist with basic medical care costs. Look them up online.
Life Beyond Cancer
An organization that provides target help for suffers of cancer. The assistance varies, but Life Beyond Cancer typically offers cash assistance, free food, car payment help, utility bill assistance, moving help, and other basic services. To qualify though, you must be diagnosed with cancer, be undergoing cancer treatments, and be in a hard financial situation. Contact them via their website: http://www.lifebeyondcancer.org
Mission of Mercy, Inc
This organization specializes in prescription assistance and other non-essential medical services like lab test assistance, x-ray assistance, dental and other such services. Funding is limited to households who have no insurance. Contact them at their website: http://www.amissionofmercy.org/
Patient Access Network
If you don’t have insurance coverage, Patient Access Network may be able to help with your hospital and medical costs. Look at their website for their contact information and on how to apply: www.Panfoundation.org
An organization where medical professionals donate extra time for charity assistance. It’s an interesting program that you should look into if you don’t have insurance and can’t access normal health care facilities because of it (such as visiting a doctor for a basic checkup etc). Visit their website for details: shepherdshope.org
Patient Advocate Foundation
A large charity with branches across the US. The mandate behind this organization is to provide free and assisted medical care to lower income households. Assistance given can include cash grants to help with medical bills and other medical help. This charity specifically focuses in fighting for the patient with issues of medical debt at medical care access – so if you suffer from medical bills or some sort of medical debt, we recommend you look into what services this organization can offer you. Visit www.patientadvocate.org
Funeral Memorial Society of America
Death can be expensive. Fortunately, there is a charity specifically dedicated to helping you save costs of burials and funeral costs in general. If someone in your family has died and you need help to pay for those costs, check this program out to see what they can assist you with. At the very least, it’s a great resource for saving a lot of money on funeral costs and you may be provided with referrals to services that offer direct financial assistance for funerals. Go here to find an affiliated agency: https://www.funerals.org/affiliates-directory
Smiles Across America
If you need access to dental care, Smiles Across America is a charity organization that offers dental care assistance to children in lower income households. You can contact the organization directly at (312) 836-9900. Note that most of their care is offered at schools in low income neighborhoods, so to gain access your children will likely need to be going to a school where Smiles Across America is offering free dental service sessions.
Free Medical Camps
Another charity program specializing in assistance programs for low income persons. They don’t’ offer cash grants but can provide you with access to current medical facilities if you can’t afford to see a doctor.
Medi-Corp Health System
A program with a special discount membership that offers cheaper costs on prescription medications and medical care, specifically targeted on households with little or no insurance coverage. The average discounted coverage is about 50 percent of normal costs. There may also be some assistance with medical care costs as well.
National Diaper Bank
This is a very specialized charity network with a single purpose: to provide free diapers to needy households. Other assistance is also offered as well such as free clothing, food, daycare assistance and other charity assistance programs geared towards young children. GO to http://diaperbanknetwork.org to locate a diaper bank near you.
UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
An organization offering financial assistance to needy households with children who need medical help. The amounts given as a cash grant by this organization can be up to five thousand dollars.
Housing Assistance Charity Programs
There’s a number of charity organizations that focus on housing assistance. Typically these are emergency shelters or some type of transitional housing program where needy individuals who have lost their homes can stay for a period of time. The organization will make every effort to assist you with finding permanent, low cost housing and help provide job training for self-sufficiency.
Note these are some of the more well-known programs, but plenty of others do exist if you search online.
A housing program for single moms specifically. Moms share a communal apartment setup. By sharing the housing area, they save by splitting the rent and utilities – all while living with other women facing the same situation. You can apply on their website (applicants are screened).
A national charity program specializing in low-cost apartments for tenants who can’t afford regular housing. This program is particularly set up for seniors and disabled persons. Go to https://www.mercyhousing.org
The Midnight Mission
Targets the homeless by offering various assistance programs. There’s free food, free clothing, emergency shelter and a raft of other self-sufficiency training services.
A unique program where a homeowner trades room and board for some small contribution towards the monthly rent. In some cases, you may even stay free if you offer some other service like babysitting, pet care, shopping assistance, yard work, or other service contributions to the homeowner.
National Coalition for the Homeless
Targets those who are homeless or facing certain homelessness. Provides homeless shelters, transitional housing, low cost housing, and even financial assistance to help with your rent/bills in some cases. If you are facing housing problems, look into this one. Go to nationalhomeless.org
Interfaith Hospitality Network
As the name suggests, this is a faith-based charity that offers emergency housing assistance to those with nowhere to go or who face a sudden housing crisis. The usual assistance is offered: counselling, temporary shelter, and counselling.
Transportation Assistance Charities
It’s possible to get help with transportation such as rides to work or in some cases a free car, if you are unable to afford a car yourself.
Local churches from time to time may offer assistance with gas or car repairs. Funds are limited and this service may or may not exist. You’ll have to contact the churches in your area to ask about this.
Salvation Army Gasoline Vouchers
From time to time, The Salvation army offers free gasoline vouchers to the needy. You can check with your local salvation army centre to inquire about this program.
A network of organizations across the Unites States who specialize in helping low income households with transportation. The assistance could be giving away free cars, offering cash grants, or providing subsidized cars. While the organization does not DIRECTLY give away cars themselves, they work with various car donation programs across the country. Visit their website to find a car donation program in your area: http://www.opportunitycars.com/automobile/cars-for-low-income-familes.html
Working Cars for Working Families
If you need a vehicle to go to work, this is a program that you might want to look into. Basically, it’s a program that offers lower cost cars to needy families. While the cars are not given away for free, they are typically available for lower-than-normal costs if you qualify as a low income household. This is made possible because various donations, grants, and other financing subsidizes the program. Go to http://www.workingcarsforworkingfamilies.org for more information.
Other Sources for Charity Help
Charities are not the only sources for ‘charity’ help. There are other organizations that are not specifically charities that do offer charity-type assistance (that is free services of some sort to those who can’t afford paying for it)
Community Action Agency
These are your one-stop-shop for assistance centers. Your local Community Action Agency will have all the information on different types of assistance from Federal, State, and local government sources. They will also have detailed information about assistance offered by local organizations, from charities, nonprofits, to churches. If you need assistance, your local Community Action Agency should be the FIRST place you seek help from.
State Assistance Programs
There are a number of assistance programs offered by the state government. These government programs may offer a specific type of assistance you need so it’s worth checking out the various programs offered. You can also visit your local Community Action Agency to get an accurate list of the state programs as well. Make sure you check out our State Assistance page.
Federal Assistance Programs
At the federal level, there are pubic assistance programs you could class as charity. These deal with major assistance issues like rental assistance (HUD Section 8 Housing Voucher Program), medical care (Medicaid), food assistance (food stamp program) and are available to low income households. However, all Federal programs require applications and the process of acceptance can be quite lengthy. As such, Federal Assistance programs are not suited for emergency assistance.
If you are looking for more assistance, do look at our other guides.
Help With Paying My Mortgage
There are a number of charities and other organizations that specifically cater to homeowners who can’t pay their mortgage or face foreclosure.
Read our Mortgage Assistance Guide for a comprehensive breakdown of the available programs.
Help with Paying My Rent
There are many organizations, both non-profit and governmental, that can provide rent assistance.
Read Our Rent Assistance Guide for these programs.
Help Paying My Utility Bills
See a specific breakdown of programs that can help you with utility bills.
Read our Utility Bill Assistance Guide for more information about utility, heating and energy bill help.