I like talking to the staff at shelters and kitchens about how the shelter/mission/kitchen got started and most often, the answer begins with one person.
One person who saw a problem; who saw a person in need; who wouldn't allow themselves to pretend not to see; someone who took time and thought, "There has to be something I can do."
Often the stories begin with a person getting a group of friends together and doing something as simple as making sandwiches and serving them out of a van. And now, in some cases, just ten or fifteen years later, there's a whole lot more than a van. There's a building where people are welcome to come to get out of the cold or the rain or just to be with people who care and they can talk to. In place of the sandwiches, there's hot meals served three times a day. In many cases there's addiction recovery programs, medical help, and career services all there to help people move from the streets to full recovery and re-entry into the world of self-sustainability. In place of a park bench, there's beds. There's showers and laundry services so they don't have to go to job interviews with only a sponge bath and the cleanest clothes they have.
All these things come from the humble beginnings of a few people making a sandwich. How does a sandwich in a van turn into a building where people can feel welcome and find shelter?
Helping is contagious. So when you see someone in need, remember to ask yourself, "How can I make a difference." I'm not asking anyone to start a homeless shelter; only to do something to help another person. I promise, you'll love it.