Making an effort to help homeless people is something that hits very close to home for me. I have been homeless twice! That is not a sentence I like saying. I don’t enjoy people knowing that about me, but with all the crazy misconceptions out there about homeless people, I can’t ignore what I have been through. Help homeless individuals and you could be helping someone like me. Help homeless families, and it may be a family like mine.
First Time Homeless
The first time I was homeless I had just aged out of foster care. I was one of the 1 in 5 aged out foster children with nowhere to go except the streets.
I didn’t have a safe family home, so I bounced around for about 3 months before I finally settled on living with my (at the time) boyfriend.
Homeless Due To Illness
Again almost 3 years ago I became homeless. This time with my family. My husband had a series of big health issues including a diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia, a severe facial pain disease that required time off work.
This was quickly followed by a ruptured appendix. In an effort to keep working and not lose his job, he worked through for almost a week before it became so infected around his colon that he ended up hospitalized for both removal and recovery.
There we were, a family of 5 with a good job, a 401k, a 6 month savings account, and we still ended up without a home. Even though my husband lost his job, I was still working.
We were one of the many employed but homeless families. We weren’t drug users, we hadn’t qualified for any government assistance, and we had dropped from a middle class working family to homeless within a matter of a few months.
The woman I now call my iMom stepped in and rallied some other good people behind me. She stepped up when I had no one else to help us, and encouraged others to help me in whatever way they could.
She began writing to me on a regular basis. It was nice to finally feel like I had a ‘mom’ around to tell me what in the world I was suppose to do. Kindness like hers is one very real way to help homeless people in need.
If You Want to Help Homeless People Without Giving Them Cash
Do you want to help homeless people without giving them cash? Maybe you have heard some things about homeless people that makes you worry about giving them money. That is understandable, but before I get into how you can help homeless people let me tell you a few facts about them.
There are a lot of misconceptions about homeless people. People have a sad misconception that most homeless people are drunks or drug addicts that just don’t want to work. That is sadly not the case. Many are families.
In fact it has been reported that:
- Somewhere between 30% and 40% of the homeless people in the USA are families with children.
- Only 30% get government-provided health care.
- Approximately only 35% get food stamps.
So before you ever assume the worst about the homeless person you see on the corner or sleeping in a car, please remember that statistics do NOT back up the common beliefs about homeless people.
If you have spare cash in your pocket, spare a thought for how it could help homeless people in your region. Walk into a nearby store and buy a few useful items, then hand them to the next homeless person you pass.
Give the gift of a single item if that’s all you can afford. Or put together a ‘care bag’.
Care Bags To Help Homeless Individuals and Families
I understand if you are uncomfortable handing money to the homeless. That’s perfectly okay. With care bags you know where your money is spent. No room for doubt!
Below is a list of things you could consider putting in a care bag for the homeless. Feel free to give your bags a more personal touch if you want.
Remember these are people who are probably feeling at their lowest. So if you are up to being a bit creative, you could make a homemade card giving them a bit of inspiration. How awesome it would be to get a nice handmade card with some goodies on a nasty rainy day living on the streets. A nice reminder there’s good people in the world!
What to Include When You Help Homeless People With Care Bags
Life Saving Items to Help Homeless People
If you want to do something really great to help homeless people, and are feeling super charitable pack a backpack which can hold some larger items. Back Packs can be bought for a couple dollars at almost any thrift store. For under $50 you could pack a life saving back pack. On Ebay, Amazon, and at Walmart you can buy the following items (prices are approximate):
- Emergency thermal tent ($8)
- 2 pack 1 lb propane tanks ($4)
- Camping Stove ($6)
- Sleeping bag ($8)
- Tarps ($2)
For as little as $8 this 2 person tent could save someone’s life by helping to keep them warm on cold nights!
Bag Ideas to Help Homeless People
- Bottled water
- Canned meat
- Canned fruit
- Juice boxes
- Wash Cloth
- Hats (warm for winter; shady for summer)
Small Bag Ideas to Help Homeless People
Small bags are best for just handing out when you see someone standing on the corner asking for help. Since it is small it is convenient for keeping in your car at all times so that you can have it easily handy.
- Travel Size toothpaste
- Travel size Shampoo
- Travel size Kleenex
- Travel size mouth wash
- Granola or protein bars
- Tampons (Remember women are homeless too)
- Travel pack baby wipes
- Small snacks
- Nail Clippers
Basic hygiene items are great, but they are never a priority. You may wonder why something like deodorant is not a priority. The reality of the matter is that they can get the extreme basics from shelters and places that hand out supplies for homeless. The good stuff that is actually needed to survive or live as comfortable as possible is harder to get.
When it comes to the food you choose think of the type of food you would want if you were going through a rough patch in your life. Some great things to consider would be grabbing an extra pizza when you buy one for yourself, grabbing an extra burger or 2 when you go through drive thru at dinner time, or pick up an extra bag of fruit when you are getting groceries.
If you are buying can foods remember to either grab cans with pull lids or stop by the dollar store and grab them a can opener. High protein things like beans and meats are important.
So if you are going to do something charitable a few times a year this is a wonderful start.
Organizing Care Bags to Help Homeless People
So you have decided this is something you want to do. Now what? Now you decide how much you want to do. Do you just want to make a couple bags and leave them in your car so that next time you see a homeless person begging you can hand them a bag? Or do you want to get others involved and make enough to hand out for a large group of homeless?
If you want to do more than just the basics, then check with:
- Local organizations (eg Masons or Lions Club)
- Your church or other local churches
- Local meetup groups
- Tattoo parlors (Here in the USA they are often a gathering spot and have owners who are looking for ways to give back to the community. If you are uncomfortable going in uninvited to ask just give them a call telling them you are reaching out to local business owners)
- Small delis (Here in the USA most small delis are locally owned. Which means they are more likely to want to give back to their local community. They are often also filled with young professionals using WiFi to work while they eat.)
- Local colleges
See if they want to contribute in any way or even help organize. See if you can explain to them how much it would mean to these people to have something as simple as a dry clean pair of socks for Christmas!
Once you have quite a few of these bags together, get a group of people and a van or truck together, and drive out to your local homeless hangout area or tent city. Always check out the place prior to going to get an idea of how many people will be there so hopefully you don’t leave anyone out. If you are a bit uncomfortable you can usually notify your local police department and they will meet you at the location to supervise (from their car usually).
One last piece of advice. These people are very poor. Quite often they will ask you for more than what you have to give. Understand they aren’t being unappreciative for what you are giving they just never have much.
If you are asked for something you don’t have on hand, simply explain ‘This is all I have for now.’ Then take a note of any much-needed items so the next time you decide to help homeless people in your area, you’ll have a few more appropriate ideas.
We all have a chance to make a significant difference for people who don’t have friends or family to care for them. Having been homeless myself, I help homeless families and individuals with small care bags any chance I get. I am grateful to be in a position to give to others in need, and it warms my heart to help them. Happy Giving!