How to Prepare a Care Package for the Homeless This Winter
2020 and 2021 has 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.
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.
Accessories and blankets to pack:
- Mylar blanket
- Rain poncho
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
- Lip balm
- Nail clippers
- Feminine hygiene products
- Unscented castile soap/shampoo such as Dr. Bronner’s
- Bandages and Band-Aids
- Antibiotic ointment
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 avoid products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash, since they contain alcohol.
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 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:
- Water bottle(s)
- Peanut butter cracker packs
- Breakfast/protein bars (avoid granola bars)
- Dried fruit
- Beef jerky
- Applesauce (with a plastic spoon)
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.
If you end up making a routine out of delivering care packages to the homeless, consider storing any extra items, materials and pre-made packages in a small storage unit. SmartStop’s temperature-controlled and secure storage options are perfect for keeping these items safe. All you’ll need to do is swing by and pick up your care kits on your way to hand them out.