When the weather outside is cold, I find myself more mindful of how thankful I am to have a warm home. While I’m dressed in Cuddle Dudz, scarves, boots, eating and drinking as I please…over a half million people in the United States are experiencing homelessness. Does that give you the same uneasy feeling I have of wanting to cry, wanting to do SOMETHING, but feeling paralyzed in action of what could make a difference?
How do we solve these problems that affect us all as humans on the same planet? I’ll never know. Sometimes when I watch Tree Fu Tom with my son, I think if only we could use ‘big world’ magic'” to send to people that need it the most. Which we do actually, in very little ways all the time.
The state of homelessness in America has been one of the biggest causes to my heart, I think because my family was close to being homeless growing up at times. I recall many periods of my life as a child and teenager where I was all too aware of the job and monetary worries that were plaguing us. I imagined we would probably live with other family members if we needed, but my child-mind very much felt the fear of…what if we no longer have a roof and walls? It was one of the biggest factors that drove me in school to earn scholarships, knowing it was the only way I could go to college as the first one in my family. I feel lucky (and kind of guilty), knowing that it doesn’t work out positively for many. I am compassionately connected with the issue, but absolutely cannot imagine the true reality, of course.
If we think about saving the world, we will surely fail and feel overwhelmed. If we think about doing something helpful for maybe just one person today, then THAT we can achieve. Every single day we affect those around us, be it loved ones or strangers.
We all have different avenues of giving; some people are able to donate their money, while others gift their time or goods. Before we had kids, my husband and I went to a homeless meet-up group where we simply watched a movie, brought food, and hung out with those in a season of difficulty. Please search, or create, groups like this in your area if that compels you more than money or item donation.
Now as a mom, I try to help by handing out these Homeless Care Packages (I’ve also have seen them called “Blessing Bags”). There is a printable idea checklist at the end of this post which you can print/share/pin if you wish to give in this way, too.
Compile some of these items into sealable Ziplock bag, or maybe order these drawstring bags in pack-quantities (NOTE: These are affiliate links to items, however ALL money I earn on items in this post will be entirely given directly to a homeless person or local shelter). Keep them in your car to hand out, or actively walk/seek/take a minute passing out to homeless men, women, and children. Pack the food in a separate bag, or bag within a bag, to avoid toiletry smells from overpowering the food.
Baby wipes -Don’t give soaps or shampoos: Any shelters that offer showers will have soap…or donate soaps to the shelters. Multi-purpose wipes are much easier to carry and use for hygiene when water isn’t available. Waterless hair shampoos may be a good option for some people, but likely not all. You could ask the individual personally. These smaller packs can be a nice size/amount.
Travel toothbrush and toothpaste -Avoid mouthwash and anything else with alcohol, like hand sanitizers.
Lotion – For hands or body, perhaps with sunscreen (see below). If you’re going to borrow those hotel toiletries, you may as well not let them go to waste.
Sunscreen -Especially in the warmer months, but sun exposure year around can be a problem for anyone living mostly outside.
Lip Balm/Chapstick -A little item to carry that can help so much.
Comb or brush
Razors and Shaving Gel -This is another item you could provide simply as a choice. He/She may not be interested in it at all, or it may be exactly what they need.
Menstrual Pads/Tampons -Another non-standard, optional item, but one that absolutely breaks my heart to think of women not having if in need. Use your discretion and gut when adding specifically to a bag for a female; asking may be too personal.
Hats -A one-size fits all hat rolls up easily to carry. Consider different kids of hats depending on seasons.
Socks -A pair or two of warm socks, especially wool. This is one of the most forgotten items we can give.
Scarves/Gloves/Coats/Shoes – How about those boots you haven’t worn in a year, or those mittens just sitting in your closet? Perhaps in the care bag, or given separately to the individual or organizations which collect these items. Be considerate with used items though, so as not to imply that a person isn’t good enough for new items.
Cans of ready-to-eat foods, with easy pop-open lids -Can openers or cooking may not be an option for them. Ready-made soups, vegetables, beans, etc can be simple without knowing if they will have water or heat to add to it.
Applesauce and other soft foods -We don’t know their access to dental care, so avoid chewy, crunchy, sticky items. Granola bars can seem like a good idea and are nice for protein/filling-food, but may not always be the best depending on their teeth. Give from your heart though, as a variety of snacks could be helpful or traded.
Instant Oatmeal Packs -Although water isn’t always available, sometimes restaurants will provide water or hot water. Hot chocolate may also be a nice packet option.
Bottled Water -An inexpensive idea is to keep a case of water in your car on hand, perhaps more during the summer months.
Travel Mug or Bottle -Some may not wish to carry this item around, while others may prefer it to get discounts on refills at some stores.
BandAids or Small First Aid Kit
Cough Drops and/or Mints
Warming Packs for Hands and Feet -You can buy a box of Hot Hands variety warmers to place in the bags for many people.
Gift Cards -Cash isn’t always the best option, but again, there’s not one right way to give. Having a $5-$10 pre-paid card (general or to a nearby food or grocery locations) can be a thoughtful resource to use. A kind message can be great, but please be careful throwing out scriptures which may not be as comforting to someone as you personally think. If so inclined, ask if you can pray right there WITH them where it provides more meaning. Or else just keep your message simple and honest like ”
Meal Coupons -A slip of paper from coupon packs may mean more than you know. Even better if you can, is offer to get it to go for them and/or eat with them, (especially if you’re going with a group).
Local Resources List – You may want to compile a list of resources, like where to go for food kitchens, free or ‘pay-what-you-can’ meals, etc in your neighborhood. Search online for “*yourtown* homeless” to see what comes up, and maybe your city already has a helpful document like this one in my local Frederick, MD. Here is a Homeless Shelter Directory to search. It may be important to keep in mind reading abilities and possibly read to them if you discover they may need that. I made this Frederick resource card to hand out, but take care to keep the meal times up-to-date if you make your own.
Conversation, eye contact, smiles, and a listening ear -These cannot be placed into the bag, but can be offered upon delivery. Using your best judgement for each instance, homeless PEOPLE do not deserve to be ignored and looked past. Some individuals may whole-heartedly be grateful for anything you offer, but remember that others may be struggling too much to be appreciate/accept your help. Don’t take it personally and try not be discouraged. Smile and remain open to helping someone else when you can. Offering respect as a human being can be the greatest “gift” to provide, and you may just find out how much in common you both have.
This is my necessary disclaimer that this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am only a mom with an education background. I must let you know that any essential oils statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I simply approve for myself and family of such things that I deem safe, effective, and positively life-transformative. I encourage you all to be informed and empowered with your health. Also, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. When you click them, you help me to cover a small portion of the cost of this blog. I appreciate your support so that I can continue to do what I love. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Odds & Evans’ ideals, my personal use, and those I believe would be of value to my readers.