Seeing homeless people on the street is hard. They have different signs-some are funny, others are sad, but it’s hard to know what to give when you see that very common sign: anything helps.
So here’s some advice from people who have been there.
#15. When you have nothing.
“Anything to help get clean when showering is not available, like cleansing wipes and deodorant especially. Chapstick, especially in the winter. Women usually need pads or tampons, they are so expensive when you have nothing.”
#14. My last handout.
“Deodorant, water, healthy snacks, razor/shaving cream, couple bucks for food/gift card to taco Bell… I was once given a gift card to the Dollar store that I felt changed my life. They had given me $20 and I was able to buy toiletries, laundry detergent and food. It was my last handout before I got my life together.”
#13. A few impractical things.
“When I was homeless food was the least of my problems. ANyone can afford a couple Mcdick Mcdoubles to keep themselves alive. You know what woulda helped? Loonies for laundry and detergant to keep my clothes from smelling like piss, Batteries for my cd walkman so i could listen to Watch out by Alexisonfire (some of the tracks helped me turn sadness into anger, which helped motivate me to get my shit together), A bible (if your not religious i get it, but motivational reading material for lonely nights is what im getting at here), a monthly bus pass, day passes to the YMCA so i can take a shower and maybe use their plus rooms for a good steam room sesh, Let me put your phone number on my resume (I didnt have a home or a phone so when i applied places i had nothing for them to get ahold of me so i had to tell them i could be found on the waterfront by the picnic tables). Maybe none of this is practical, but i needed a few impractical things to get my foot in the door….which i did…and im fine now.”
#12. That personal touch.
“I used to work with homeless people. For women, you can do up little hygiene packs with pads, tampons, feminine wipes and a little roll-on deodorant. Pads are expensive as fuck and pretty much all women need them.
For a more generic approach, little care packs are doable too. A bottle of water, a snack, a pair of clean socks, bars of soap, a toothbrush and a little toothpaste will go a long way. Grocery gift cards are better than money too. A handwritten note slipped inside the pack too can give it that personal touch.”
#11. Quite cold.
“Not homeless, but a great idea I thought worth sharing: A young kid and his parent in my area recently started a charity drive that’s become quite popular. Donors and volunteers wrap warm winter coats around trees with “Take me, I’m free!” signs. It gets quite cold here and it’s a way to get coats to homeless people on their own terms. It’s been pretty successful from what I’ve heard.”
#10. My wife and kids.
“Homeless guy approached my uncle 15 years back asking for food outside a hotel. Uncle offered to pay his bill.
He said “Can I pack it and take it home, my wife and kids are hungry too?”
Uncle asked the cashier to pack 4 plates of Biryani (costly food with meat), the homeless guy said, “buy me rice and curry for the same amount we’ll get more food for the same price”
He was genuinely homeless.
And also, the amount of money my uncle spent for buying him food was like almost half the price, he and his friends had spent there before the homeless guy came.
We eat junk food and drink coffees throughout the day without giving it a thought. When in the same amount of money these homeless guys can spend almost a week with food.
#9. During the cold nights.
“I’ve never been homeless nor personally known anyone who was homeless. But one time I passed blankets around downtown Chicago and the most common requests were gloves and hand warmers, ESPECIALLY hand warmers. They may be temporary, but they really help out during the cold nights.”
#8. When you’re still stuck in it.
“Being talked to like a normal person is really, really awesome.
Money is good. But it only goes so far. And some people are scammers or after drugs. And even if not money just buys you some food and supplies you need.
What you really need is an address. And clean clothes. And a way to put together a resume and clean clothes to wear to interviews. And work to do in the meantime.
If there are good services in your area helping someone to them can help them. Resistance doesn’t mean they are one of the bad ones either. It could also mean they have been burned enough that they don’t really trust people anymore.
In the end I say support housing first policies and then point homeless people to where they can get involved in it. If you want to spend money then donate to organizations that help homeless people get in to a home and then help them get back in to the workforce. Or a meal. There are homeless that will take the meal. Food and things like tampons help when you’re still stuck in it.”
“For a female homeless person, I suggest tampons or pads, and feminine wipes. Having her period, living on the streets with no means to take care of herself or keep clean, is difficult and humiliating. It’s a basic human requirement, and those items are kind of expensive, but very much-needed.”
#6. Clean off.
“I was homeless for about 2 years. The most helpful is food. Next is clean clothing of any kind. When you’re homeless you don’t get to wash clothes or have clean ones to put on. Shoes! I’d walk the soles clean off in several months.”
#5. A genuine smile and…
“A genuine smile and food. If you have the time take them to a McDonald’s and talk to them. It was about 6 years ago someone did that for me and it helped me out so much more than I can express.”
“Probably a small hygiene pack, water and a snack.”
#3. The basics.
“Not homeless but as someone who has made kits the last 4 years to hand out (I keep a stack of totes in my car at all times) I give these things:
Each package has:
BPA free reusable water bottle
Peanut butter crackers
Dried fruit (Bananas, blueberries, cranberries)
Almonds and Cashews
SPF 30 sport sunscreen
Toothbrush & holder
Pack of tissues
First Aid kit
LED light w/batteries (120 hour tealight)
Personal note from my family
Winter gets socks, hand warmers, gloves, hats, and those little silver space blankets
I never know everyone’s circumstances so I try to cover the basics and figure they can hopefully trade if they don’t need something.”
“a pass to a $10 gym so they have access to a hot shower everyday, socks, a bottle of ibuprofen…”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Socks. SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS. I didn’t care if they were too big, at least they were on and protecting my feet. Women, give hygiene products. Those never get donated unless it’s small bursts during awareness things.
If you want to take it a step further, make little packs with underwear/boxers (again, best to be too big than too small), socks, toothbrushes and paste (my teeth are permanently damaged and I’m looking at implants/dentures at 24), small snacks, a reusable water bottle, and little Mio water squirts, just because sometimes I liked being able to slap a few drops in my water and “treat myself”.
If you live in a bus-laden city, bus passes are good, too! Bus passes were always a pain! If a shelter had them, they metered them and only gave you one use only tickets.. once got stranded on the edge of town that way.”