As the holidays roll around, many of us are inspired to give more than any other time of the year, especially when considering care packages for the homeless. A group of individuals that benefit from giving year round is the homeless population. Homelessness can happen at any time and maybe you have experienced it yourself. Homelessness affects men, women, and children. It affects the young, the old, the healthy, the unwell. Not every homeless individual has a drug and alcohol problem or a mental health issue. Never judge someone who doesn’t have a home, try to understand their stories.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are over 500,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night across the U.S. and approximately 15% of the homeless population are considered “chronically homeless” while about 9% of the homeless population are veterans.
Homelessness is a huge issue in the United States and many people want to help, but don’t know what to do. Creating and distributing care packages are a great way to offer a helping hand to an individual who doesn’t have a permanent residence. There are many checklists for care packages on the internet, but it’s always a good idea to make packages that are useful. While all care packages are well-intentioned, some items are better than others.
Suggestions for Care Packages
When you create a care package, think about the essentials and what will be long lasting and most portable.
- Socks: Many homeless individuals, without a car, spend a great amount of time walking to and from appointments. A fresh pair of socks can do wonders on tired feet. Band-aids or blister pads are also helpful.
- Food: While some individuals have the opportunity for at least one hot meal from a meal center, many need high protein, quick and easy snacks to eat throughout the day. Steer clear of sticky, hard, or overly sweet foods (like candy) that can put strain on teeth. For many, regular dental care is not an option. Applesauce, pudding, trail mix, beef jerky, and instant soup cups are a better idea.
- Toiletries: While a bar of soap can go a long way, it can ruin a bag full of food. If an individual has a chance to shower, it’s highly likely that soap is already available. A better option would be baby or cleansing wipes. Other helpful toiletries include a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, a comb, unscented lotion. Avoid mouthwash, hand sanitizer, or any products that contain alcohol.
You may tempted to give money, but it’s difficult to know how helpful it will really be. Instead, offer a gift card to a coffeeshop or a sandwich shop. Travel mugs, hand/foot warmers, and extra cold weather clothing could also be helpful.
When you distribute your care package, take the time to talk to the individual, learn his or her story. Many homeless individuals are not “beggars”. While your contribution will most likely be appreciated, keep in mind that it is also difficult to accept help. Have a nice simple conversation with your recipient, you may find that you have a lot in common.