SIMPLE WAYS TO HELP: How to Pack a Care Kit for a Homeless Person

SIMPLE WAYS TO HELP: How to Pack a Care Kit for a Homeless Person

Photo by Jess Amburgey

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”
-Wendell Berry

Did you know that 23 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans? We want to help change that! And while the main way to address this issue is by providing better mental health care through veteran organizations like Give an Hour, there are small, simple ways that you can help folks in your day-to-day life.

Care kits are small, easy to carry bags that can be handed out to the homeless, or anyone in need of some basic supplies.

What Should I Put in My Care Kit?

The entire kit should go in a clear Ziplock bag, or another small, clear container that won’t take up a lot of room in a backpack. Better yet - make your kits using a backpacks! We’re going to list several different types of care packages you can create, but a good rule of thumb is to include hygiene products that have neutral, mild scents, good quality (think thick wool) socks, and to avoid items that contain alcohol or could leak, such as mouthwash and hand sanitizer. You can mix and match these items.

The Essentials

Including basic care items in your kits can help someone without access to basic facilities tremendously. Keep in mind that items should be small, portable, and useful. Be sure to keep food and hygiene items separated as the scents from deodorant or other items can infiltrate the food. You can customize these kits to best suit the needs of those in your area, as these needs will vary based upon climate, available resources, etc. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Baby wipes

  • Chapstick

  • Advil

  • Band-aids

  • Sugar free gum or mints (mints are better, considering those with dental problems will not be able to chew gum)

  • Travel lotion

  • Mini deodorant (something gender neutral and not extremely strong smelling; basically, stray away from the Old Spice and go for something a little more basic, no matter what you personally prefer)

  • Personal Hygiene Products (Pads): After high quality socks, these are the most sought-after items by the homeless population. These products are not easily available to the homeless who need them. Since these types of times are more pricey, including them in your care kits could be a lifesaver for someone in need.

Clothing and Other Items

Including clothing can make a lasting impact, but be sure to include things that will actually be useful, such as:

  • High-quality, thick wool socks. When your feet are one of your main modes of transportation, you need to take care of them. Changing socks frequently can help keep feet happier and healthier, but we don't recommend cheaper cotton socks, aim for something with padding that will last

  • Headlamps. A headlamp can be incredibly useful on a dark night, and you can typically find them for under $10 at big box stores

  • Gloves

  • Adult gummy vitamins help the immune system of those who cannot always afford healthy food or a meal every day. 

  • A travel toothbrush and toothpaste are both inexpensive and immensely helpful to someone in need

  • Bottled water, or a reusable water bottle - consider whether or not the person has access to clean water before giving a reusable bottle. Are there bottle filling stations across your city? If not, pre-packaged bottle water may be more useful

  • A bus route map with shelters marked on it. Including bus fare can also be helpful, but as always, be cautious when handing out money

Food

Including a gift card for food may be tempting, but what is more helpful is actually including food in your kit. Here are some suggestions for good, portable meals:

  • Beef jerky

  • Applesauce

  • Canned tuna (the type with the pop off lid, not anything that requires a can opener) or bagged tuna

  • Raisins

  • Crackers

  • Fruit snacks

  • Peanut butter

  • Fresh fruits like bananas or oranges (apples or harder fruits may be too difficult for those without healthy teeth)

  • If it’s legal in your area to hand out food, make sure to keep hot food hot and cold food cold until you hand it to the person

What Not to Include

Not everything will be useful in a care kit so keep in mind that they will be used by people who are on the go, and often carrying everything on their backs. Anything that takes up too much valuable space will be left behind.

  • Used items

  • Items that contain alcohol

  • Granola or any crunchy items that may crumble, become sticky, or be hard to chew

  • Large, bulky items

  • Gift cards: It may be tempting to include these as they are seen as a “safe” way to give cash, but keep in mind that the homeless person may not have the resources or feel safe getting to those establishments the gift card is good for

  • Including $10 or so is helpful, but can be unsafe. If you plan to pass out the kits yourself, forgo the money. If you’re working in conjunction with a shelter, see what their policy is.

How and Where Do I Give Out Care Kits?

You should hand out kits in groups if you plan to hand out a lot at one time. It’s important to remain safe while passing them out, so going in pairs or small groups is your best bet. If you plan to keep them in your car or on your person to hand out as needed, then consider not including any money as suggested above. Large groups can also be intimidating. Groups of 3-5 people tend to work best. If you plan to keep one on you to hand out as needed, always use caution and remain safe.

When handing the kits out, be sure to do it with a smile and a kind word. One Million Americans are just one paycheck away from being in identical positions. Compassion and understanding is key. If you have the time, and they want to, talk to them a little bit instead of just shoving the care kit in their hands and walking away.

You can give out these kits any time of the year, but consider consulting your local homeless shelter to find out when people are the most in need. Around the holidays may seem like a good time to do this work, but consider helping year-round as well.

How Can I Keep Helping?

In addition to helping by handing out these simple, easy to make kits, there are other ways for you to get involved in helping the housing situation in your city, as well as those in need or at-risk. Volunteering at your local shelter is a fantastic start, as they are well-versed in what your local homeless population needs. Organizing coat drives, getting school supplies together for kids, or handing out lunches can also benefit the community greatly!

If you have a trade, such as barbering, offering those services to the homeless can also help them. Finding work is difficult when you haven’t had a haircut or a shave in months. If you aren’t able to provide these services, reach out to your network and see if anyone you know would be willing to. If you have a position of power at your job, consider hiring someone who is homeless.

Advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “Advocacy is critical to creating the systemic changes needed to end homelessness. Advocacy means working with people experiencing homelessness to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means working with various sectors of the community (e.g. city/county officials, members of Congress, direct service providers, and the business community) to develop workable strategies for responding to homelessness. It also means changing your language and behaviors in small ways that may contribute to larger changes in the way people experiencing homelessness are seen and treated in our society.”

This means following local politics, contacting the media, helping register those experiencing homelessness to vote, and being involved in local ordinances that could hurt those experiencing homelessness, such as “dividers” on park benches. etc.

At BLoFISH, we strive to help everyone in our community. That’s what ALL4ALL is about, and that’s why we donate 10 percent of every sale directly to funding causes that matter to us. Make sure to check out our charity of the month, and check back in next month for more simple ways to help. If you make some care kits, we’d love to see! Tag us, and use the hashtag #ALL4ALL and maybe you’ll be featured in an upcoming blog!




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