The past few years have made life more difficult than ever for people around the world. With unemployment and evictions on the rise, homeless populations are in even greater need. If you’re planning on creating a care package for the homeless this year, check out our tips on the best items to include.
1. Insulated Accessories and Blankets
Many shelters already receive used clothing donations that include pants and shirts, but accessories like gloves, beanies, socks and blankets are harder to come by. These items are at the top of the homeless needs list during the winter, regardless of where you live or how cold it gets.
When you’re shopping for products, double-check the materials to ensure that they can hold up to wear and tear. Durable wool or thermal socks are a great choice, as well as thick gloves. Remember that up to 45 percent of body heat is lost through the head and neck, so prioritize beanies and scarves in snowy climates. Mylar blankets — also known as “survival” blankets — are another all-around practical option. Don’t be fooled by their lightweight nature: Mylar blankets were designed to improve heat insulation (astronauts even use them!). Plus, they’re windproof and waterproof.
|Note: When you’re delivering your care packages, it’s still important to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines. Many homeless communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, and don’t have the same access to medical attention.|
Accessories and blankets to pack:
2. Personal Hygiene and First Aid Items
Toiletries and first aid items are essential to a well-rounded homeless care package, and they’re often easy to buy in bulk. Some of the most products for your care kit are:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (SmileCare Adult Success Dental Kits - $119.99 for 72 kits*)
- Lip balm (Shea Lip Balm - $10 for 10 tubes*)
- Tissues (Kleenex - $14.98 for a 12-pack of 65 tissues each*)
- Nail clippers (Nghia Clipper B-901 - $3 each*)
- Comb (McKesson Handle Comb - $29.82 for 144*)
- Feminine hygiene products (Basics Hygiene Kit - $21.60 for 24 kits*)
- Lotion (Jergens Ultra Healing Dry Skin Moisturizer - $23.99 for 24 travel-sized tubes*)
- Alcohol-free hand sanitizer (Liquid Pro Alcohol-Free Gel - $11.99 for pack of 10*)
- Bandages and Band-Aids (Sheer Strip Adhesive - $37.95 for 1,000*)
- Antibiotic ointment (Triple Antibiotic Ointment - $2.72 for 10 packets*)
In the winter months, any kind of heavy-duty moisturizer is great to prevent exposed skin from getting chapped, as well as soothing the hands and feet. Keep in mind that all your hygiene items should be fragrance-free, as this can be irritating to people with sensitivities. You should also choose hand sanitizer or mouthwash that are alcohol-free. (If you’re unsure, avoid adding it to your care package, as it can be harmful for addicts or recovering addicts.)
3. Snacks That Are Easy on the Teeth
Many homeless individuals develop dental issues, so opt for non-perishable snacks that are soft instead of sticky or chewy. Packaged snacks and reusable water bottles are perfect, but if you want to go out of your way to prepare a warm home-cooked meal, go for it — it’s a sweet gesture, especially in the winter months. (Note — read up on your local health code laws, because they may prohibit giving homemade food to strangers outside of a commercial or approved facility.)
Regardless of what you put in your snack pack, we recommend you store any food items in a separate pouch or bag than the one that contains the toiletries and accessories.
Snack ideas for your care package:
- Lightweight reusable bottle (CSBD 20-ounce Sports Bottles - $25.95 for 10*)
- Crackers and cheese (Lance Toast Chee Cheddar Sandwich Crackers - $26.94 for 40-pack*)
- Breakfast/protein bars (avoid granola bars) (Nutrigrain Bars - $16.49 for 48 bars*)
- Dried fruit (Sensible Foods Crunch Dried Apple Snacks - $16.99 for 20*)
- Beef jerky (Original Jack Link’s Lunch Packs - $38.99 for 8-pack*)
- Applesauce (with a plastic spoon) (Mott’s Apple and Cinnamon 4-ounce Packs - $19 for 36*)
4. Extra Materials for Your Homeless Care Package
The standard care packages you create can be more or less universal, but it’s a good idea to keep a stash of products for special situations. You might meet someone with a child, and having baby items like diapers, diaper cream and wipes on hand can make all the difference. Other items you can give out include: keyring flashlights for poorly lit areas, quarters for laundry, spare backpacks or reusable totes, hand warmers, and can openers. A handwritten note and print-out of local resources (where they can get a hot meal or shower, a haircut, lodgings, etc.) can add a thoughtful and personal touch to your care package.
On top of the many challenges that homeless individuals face — lack of food, clothing, and access to shelter and medical attention, to name a few — they’re often looked down upon or dehumanized. Spending a few hours of your day to make and drop off care packages can have an enormous impact on their day, and make you feel more connected to your local community. If you have the time, get to know the people you’re giving packages to, and their stories. Giving them the respect and time they deserve is an important form of care on its own.
*All prices are accurate at the time of writing.