Have you ever wondered how to help the homeless? Your heart goes out to them but maybe you’re not sure of how to help make a real difference. Is it cash they need most? Food? A job?!
What is a homeless care package?
While there’s a whole host of ways of helping the homeless, I personally love to meet several of their needs at once by sharing a homeless care package. A homeless care package (sometimes called a homeless blessing bag) is a small collection of items a homeless person might find useful.
How did I decide what to include in the care package? I went straight to the source, gathering information from shelters, homeless ministries, and the homeless themselves.
Here’s what I found out!
What do you put in a homeless care package? Homeless Care Package Ideas
Before diving into our list, I’ll mention that it’s always good practice to ask before you give.
Everyone’s circumstances are different and they may not need what you’re offering. If they decline your offer, wish them well and save your items for those that do need them.
Clothing wears out quickly when you’re wearing it every day. Socks and teeshirts were highest on the list of clothing needs.
Wondering which socks they prefer? I researched that too!
The most common answer was men’s white crew socks. Shoes are also in high demand but more difficult to provide given the wide range of sizes.
Cold Weather Clothing (Homeless Care Packages For Winter)
Do you live in an area that experiences cold temperatures? Hats, gloves, scarves, and coats will help to shield the homeless from the elements.
Don’t have the money to go out and purchase new items? Gently used items are appreciated as well! Check your closet for any hats or coats you don’t use and give them to those who will.
Hand warmers are a fantastic help as well. Consider purchasing them in bulk and keeping some handy in your purse or car to give to others when you encounter a need.
Blankets and sleeping bags are helpful, the more easily portable, the better.
Toiletries/Personal Hygiene Items
Toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene products (pads), disposable razors, shaving cream, chapstick, and hand wipes are common items that are often foregone in favor of food.
Lotion is commonly needed during the winter, when hands can become dry and chapped from constant exposure to the cold. Consider saving the small bottle of lotion from your hotel bathroom and sharing it with someone who could really use it.
Aim for food that is both filling and easily transported, like breakfast/cereal bars, tuna and crackers, crackers with peanut butter or cheese, or beef jerky. A bottle of water can also help to combat the dehydration that homeless people commonly experience.
Fast Food or Grocery Store Gift Card
This provides them with not only food but also a place to get out of the street for a while, use the restroom, etc., since many stores only allow paying customers inside.
Train or Bus Card
Offer a means of transportation to nearby shelters, ministries, grocery stores, and more!
Use this website to locate shelters and other homelessness assistance services in your area. Then jot down any helpful nearby services, along with addresses and phone numbers, on a notecard or piece of paper.
Many homeless people mentioned that shelters and ministries are most helpful to their needs but that they don’t always know where to find them.
An Encouraging Note
The homeless are often denied basic dignity and even acknowledgment by others. Including an encouraging note with your gift of food or hygiene items, telling them you care and that they matter, could be just the words they need to hear!
(Want this list of practical items, plus more ideas, in one handy guide? Be sure to download our free guide to creating a homeless care package HERE!)
Homeless Care Package DIY
So what should you do…keep socks or toothbrushes in your car and hand them out to the homeless as you meet them?
Possibly! In fact, many people do just that!
You can also create a small bag of items to keep handy in your car.
During my research, I stumbled upon the idea to pack several items inside of a Nalgene or other wide-mouthed water bottle. This provides them with several much-needed items, plus a durable water bottle.
So I did just that, packing socks, hand wipes, snacks, and a McDonald’s gift card inside the bottles! I put a few in my car and a few in my husband’s, so we’d both be ready whenever we encountered a need.
You can also pack items into a gallon Ziploc bag or gently used purse or backpack.
Tips For a Useful Homeless Care Package
- Don’t give the homeless your leftovers or worse yet, trash. While gently used items are appreciated, items with holes or heavy wear don’t send a message that the recipients are valued.
- Keep care packages small. Many homeless people carry all of their belongings everywhere they go. For this reason, it’s better to offer just a few incredibly helpful items than 20 meh items.
- Consider their pets. Some homeless people adopt homeless animals, which may mean the food in your homeless care package feeds a dog rather than a human. Consider carrying small baggies of dog food to give alongside your homeless care package, to ensure both are fed.
What should you not put in a homeless care package? What not to give a homeless person?
Not every gift is useful! Here are a few items you should avoid including in your homeless care package:
- Hard or crunchy foods. Many homeless people may be struggling with broken, rotten, or sensitive teeth or may be missing teeth altogether. Stick with slightly softer foods that can be easily consumed regardless of dental health.
- Perishable foods. Freshly-cooked foods, or those that require refrigeration, demand the recipient eat them right away, whether they’re hungry at the moment or not. Instead, opt for non-perishable foods that can be eaten immediately or stored for weeks or months at a time.
- Gift cards for businesses beyond walking distance. A grocery store or restaurant gift card for a store five or ten miles away will require the recipient to either walk a long distance or pay for public transportation to use them. For this reason, be mindful of each recipient’s location when you give them a gift card.
Handing Out Your Homeless Care Package
More than food, clothing, or money, the most common needs expressed by the homeless are dignity, kindness, understanding, and encouragement. Most people avoid eye contact with the homeless, ignore their attempts at conversation, and/or act obviously uncomfortable with any interaction.
That means when you’re handing out your homeless care package, simply making eye contact and engaging in simple conversation, even saying “hello” or “good morning,” can go a long way in vastly improving their day.
Of course, be wise when engaging in conversation with strangers, homeless or not. Keep interactions contained to safe, public places where there are other people around.
Beyond Your Homeless Care Package – What else do homeless people need?
And finally, do you want to make a difference in the lives of more than one or two homeless people? Then consider donating your time and/or money to homeless shelters or ministries!
Check out this homeless shelter directory or your local church, and ask how you can help! These services have deeper pockets and more connections to provide the homeless with not just a meal but the training and assistance they need to get back on their feet again.
So now you know how to help the homeless! You are completely capable of making a difference in their lives, through homeless care packages and beyond!
Have you found a way to help and encourage the homeless in your area? Any tips or tricks you’ve learned? Be sure to share with us in the comments!
P.S. Want this list of practical items, plus more ideas, in one handy guide? Be sure to download our free guide to creating homeless care packages HERE!
What are the best items to give to a homeless person?
The best items to give to a homeless person are those they want and need, rather than the fun or novelty items you enjoy.
For example, ordering two of your favorite frappucinos and sharing one with a homeless person, while thoughtful, may not be what they want or need. What if they don’t like frappucino? Or that flavor? What if they’re struggling to regulate their blood sugar or are hungry and would much prefer a cheeseburger?
Focus on giving them items that are universally liked and helpful.
What are 5 things a homeless person could use?
If you had to narrow the above list to just five items, I would choose one or two items from each of the following categories: food, clothing, toiletries, and resource card.
What do you give homeless people instead of money?
None of the items listed above involve handing out cash! Homeless people can also benefit from food, fast food gift cards, toiletries, socks, teeshirts, warm coats, and more.
How do you make a homeless person happy?
There are a load of things you can do to help bring a smile to their face! Besides blessing them with a homeless care package, you can also:
- Make eye contact and smile.
- Pay them a compliment.
- Strike up a conversation.
- Take time to listen to their story without interrupting (if they’re willing to share).
- Ask them if and how you can pray for them.
- Treat them like the valuable human they are.
What do you give a homeless friend?
If your friend is homeless, please give them your love and support! Help them find all of the resources available to them. Offer to go with them and help them to obtain those resources, if possible.
While it’s incredibly kind to share your own resources as you’re able, keep in mind that you want to help them find truly lasting solutions.
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