In our post-pandemic reality, the homeless population has been growing. If you live in a place with cold winters, this adds another tough layer to an already- difficult situation. Putting together “care kits” for the homeless is a great way to give back to your community. Some people even make up a bunch of them to keep in their car and hand out as needed.
Many of these items can be bought at a dollar store, but there are a few things to keep in mind when packing up your care kits. Think of including essentials, but remember that these folks have to carry everything with them.
Carrying around a full-sized Kleenex box or shampoo bottle takes up too much real estate; a few miniatures organized neatly in a Ziploc bag are helpful. In quart-sized plastic bags, place items like wet wipes, bandages, napkins, and a miniature toothbrush and toothpaste. Consider adding tampons or sanitary napkins for women, and razors for men.
Don’t pack anything that can go bad, although a sandwich once in a while might be nice. Think tuna and cracker packs or trail mix, Don’t include overly hard foods, junk food, or candy, since the homeless population doesn’t easily have access to regular dental care.
Accessories, not clothing
Unless they specifically ask for a sweater or coat, consider less bulky items in your care kit, like gloves and socks. For anyone sleeping outside, these little touches can make a big difference. Opt for higher quality than what you can get at the dollar store, with wool or thermal materials.
Although it’s something we take for granted, not everyone has access to clean, free drinking water. Consider adding a couple of individual bottled waters to your care kits.
Living on the street is tough, especially overnight where safety is an issue. Consider including a small flashlight or a wearable headlamp flashlight to increase visibility and safety at night.
Multi-vitamins or EmergenC
Since the homeless population is likely to get sick from lack of sleep or proper nutrition, consider adding multi-vitamin chewables or vitamin C packets.
Dog or cat food
If they have pets, consider including kibble, dog treats, or some single-serving food portions to keep their furry friend happy and well-fed.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- Invest in high-quality zippered plastic bags rather than the cheap ones that tent. This way, even after the contents of the care kit are used, the recipient has a free reusable bag to store their personal belongings in.
- Include a hand-written note. While the kit itself is a thoughtful gesture, show the person that you care. It’s an important reminder that they matter. Also, a written list (they may not have internet access) of resources (i.e where to get a haircut, local soup kitchens, washrooms, and overnight shelter) can be extremely helpful.
- -If you live in a rural area and aren’t sure where to distribute homeless care kits, reach out to local churches or call 211 to see where you can hand them out.
Photo: Homeless woman (public domain)