This post is all about making homeless care packages. These are the BEST things to put in your care kits for the displaced.
Growing up, one of the best lessons that my mother taught me through her actions was how to care for those experiencing homelessness.
A few Saturdays a month, she would put my sister and I in the car, drive to our neighborhood donut shop and buy boxes of donuts. Then, she would drive us to downtown San Diego where we would hand out donuts to those that were homeless.
Now, I’m not gonna lie.
As a young girl, I did not appreciate the rich lesson in humanity that my mom was demonstrating at the time. You want to know what I was most worried about?? My main priority was stealing a donut hole or two in the backseat when she wasn’t looking (lol).
In my older age, I fully appreciate how those Saturday mornings showed me that it was within my ability to care and show compassion to those that are struggling.
I spent last Christmas with my sister who started a new tradition of her own.
She bought some of the items below and we put together a bunch of care packages for the homeless. We then passed some out and kept the leftover bags in the car for anyone else we would encounter in the future.
I am so glad that she did this because I hope to make it a yearly tradition in my own family.
However, the last thing I want to do is to put a bunch of stuff in a bag that makes me feel like I’m doing something good but doesn’t actually meet the needs of the homeless community. So, I have done a lot of research into what those experiencing homelessness actually want.
What care packaging to use:
Many houseless individuals and families get around by walking or by public transportation.
Because of that, you can make these care packages most useful by putting everything in a bag that is: reusable, sturdy, lightweight and with a handle.
(Choosing something waterproof is also a good idea because it would protect their things against the weather).
Look around- you may have some suitable bags laying around from grocery stores and the like.
If not, you can purchase these bags online in bulk.
What to include in a care package for the homeless
What items do the homeless need most?
The #1 & most important ….
High Quality SOCKS!!
All of the research I did on the most useful items for the homeless said the same thing…… SOCKS.
Socks are the most requested but oftentimes least donated item among the unhoused.
Not only do warm socks help them withstand cold or rainy weather, a high quality pair of clean socks can greatly affect quality of life for those with health conditions like diabetes or poor circulation.
Since those that are displaced spend a lot of time walking, their socks will get worn out faster. This means they are always in demand.
Before doing this research, I had never donated new socks. I just never thought of it! So, I can certainly see how they would be high in demand.
If you choose to include socks in your homeless care packages, I encourage you to buy the highest quality socks that you are able to afford so that they last longer.
In addition to socks, what else is useful for your homeless care packages?
2 | Feminine Hygiene Products
Imagine being on your cycle and not having the resources to take care of yourself. It would be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Unfortunately, a lot of people (including myself) don’t remember to include feminine products in care kits that are given to the homeless. Next time you are at the store buying some for yourself, grab an extra pack to put in these care packages.
3 | Reusable Water Bottle
Not only are reusable water bottles better for the planet than plastic, it is also more convenient for the recipient because it can be filled up over and over again.
Here is an affordable bulk pack of reusable water bottles you can snag.
4 | Travel Sized Toiletries
In this situation, more is NOT more.
Most times, homeless individuals on the go prefer to keep their belongings compact and easy to carry.
This is why trial size and travel sized essential items are more valuable than full sized products.
Keep this in mind if you choose to inclue the following personal hygiene items:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Razor + Shaving Cream
- Tissues or Wet Wipes
….You can also buy already-prepared toiletry kits here…
5 | Travel Sized First Aid Kit
Life on the streets is bound to result in a few injuries now and then. It is very valuable to have a supply of at least band aids, antiseptics or bandages for wound treatment.
Here, you can buy a pack of four mini first-aid kits or a pack of 48 here.
6 | Non-Perishable Food Items
Remember that a lot of displaced people may not have regular access to dental care or they may be elderly. This means that they may struggle with dental issues/weak teeth.
If you choose to include food/snacks, keep this in mind since nuts, crunchy granola bars and other hard foods may be impossible for them to eat.
7 | Diapers and Baby Wipes
Yet another great idea that I had not previously thought of.
There are plenty of homeless families with children. To target them, include diapers and wipes to help them keep the kids dry and clean.
8 | Personal Note
Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word! I’ve ready so many stories of people being blessed by letters that were included in gifts they were given.
Including a handwritten note of encouragement or at least an encouraging kindness card like these ones are a great way to bring sunshine to someones day.
You can also use this as an opportunity to spread knowledge by including a list of local resources where services for the homeless are available.
9 | Hand Warmers
During winter months, heat packs (like these HotHands hand warmers) are a great way to warm up when the temperatures drop.
10 | Face Masks
In this day and age, it is difficult for anyone to enter an establishment without a face mask. Extra face masks are a great resource.
Buy a bulk pack of face masks here.
11| Gift Cards / Bus Passes / Money?
Now, I know that giving money or monetary gifts is controversial, but if we are talking about the most useful items to give the homeless, we can’t just skip over the topic. When it comes down to it, each person you come across will have specific needs that will never be met by a standard care package, and that’s okay.
You may consider adding $10 gift cards or perhaps rolls of quarters for laundry to your blessing bags for the homeless.
10 BUDGET-FRIENDLY BULK FINDS FOR YOUR HOMELESS CARE PACKAGES
Here are a few budget-friendly bulk finds to fill your homeless care packages.
Reusable Cotton Tote Bags
Heavy Duty Crew Socks
Pack of 72 Pair or 240 Pair
Motivational & Kindness Cards (Business Card Size)
A pack of 60 assorted cards that are blank on the back (for your specific and handwritten notes).
24 Kits of travel-sized Toiletries
Individually Wrapped Toothbrushes
40 Pair - Up to 10 Hours of Heat
Johnson & Johnson Mini First-Aid Kit
Pack of 4 Kits (for under $10)
Single Use Hand Sanitizer Packets
Pack of 100
Healthy Snacks To Go
66-Count Variety Pack
...proTips & advice...
1 | Make sure to give with dignity. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
Be respectful and give the people you encounter the option to say yes or no to whatever you are offering. Everyone should be allowed to have preferences.
2 | Every individual has specific needs.
Some people won’t need the things listed above. Some may have allergies or need care packages with dietary restrictions.
If you really really want to meet someones specific needs, you can always make a personal connection and ask them “how can I help you today?“
3 | One of the best advice is to think of this as a short term use gift.
You’re meeting their need at the time, not stocking them up like a pantry. Most people experiencing homelessness don’t have storage, so in this case, quality is better than quantity.
What Items are not ideal for your homeless care packages?
– Disposable water bottles
Increases waste and doesn’t meet a need for the long term.
Opt for a reusable water bottle
– Used socks or underwear
Remember to give items of value. Giving used and stained items is humiliating and not respectful.
– Opened or partially used toiletries
Give new toiletries in order to ensure proper sanitation
– Perishable food or heavy cans that require can openers, etc
Non-perishable snacks and easy-to-open food with long shelf life are preferable.
How to give out your homeless care kits
The awesome thing about making these care packages is that you can make a lot of them and then keep them in your car and home to give them out whenever you see someone in need.
As you can imagine, homeless shelters get many donations around the holiday season but remember that people are in need year round.
So, if you can, it is nice to think outside the box and give out these homeless blessing bags at uncommon times of the year like during the summer and after the holidays.
If you find it difficult to find people that are experiencing homelessness on a day to day basis, you can always drop these care packages to homeless shelters, soup kitchens or food banks, where those with greater need congregate.
Then, whoever needs one can take one.
Check out this link to find local shelters near you.
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“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”James 2:15-16
Thank you so much for all the ideas and helpful links. We live in north San Diego, and have made it a point to offer whatever extra snacks/water we have with us whenever we see someone who might need it. I’ve been wanting to create bags for awhile, so now that’s what our family will be working on for the rest of this Lent.
Also thank you for bringing up the dignity of those experiencing homelessness. It can be so easy to judge or just walk past without a second thought, but everyone deserves dignity and respect. If you’re able to ask their name, do so! I once read that sometimes they might not hear their names be said for years at a time.
Wow! That last sentence is an eye-opener Andi. Thanks for replying. I am so glad to hear of your proactivity and generosity.
Thanks so much for posting this! My husband brought this wanted to do this last year around the holidays, but I told him, let’s wait until the holidays are over because we were seeing bags all over and not any homeless on the streets. Now that it is warmer, we are in the process of making bags and handing them out. The socks are quite often overlooked as well as sunscreen (Las Vegas) but this was a reminder to me that we are to help one another.
Gaye Henley says
Hey! Great article! I have my method of doing this here in Knoxville, Tennessee and I would like to share my ideas. I am a senior citizen with a LOW budget but there are ways to do this on a budget. I use gallon zip lock bags and/or SHEIN zip bags from my daughter. I stockpile napkins and fork packs from fast food. I buy my folks Vienna sausages (it is Tennessee and they are 50 cents!) bottled water, cheese crackers, applesauce cups, snack cakes, a few bandaids, and suckers. My daughter finds cool things at bin stores – protein bars, trial size deodorants, chapsticks, candy, etc. We found Christmas blankets for a dollar! Toboggans and gloves reduced, etc. My folks get a good bag when I find them at the bus stop. I do what I can afford and it works out.
Great, thoughtful additions! I like the tip about the SHEIN bags; great idea to repurpose those Gaye!