From Your Hand to the Homeless
How You Can Help Homeless People with a Personal Touch
In an often uncaring world it's important that we reach out to each other. You can give to the homeless in an indirect way (and you should if you want to) but giving and caring directly gives them something beyond price - human contact and recognition.
Perhaps the most painful part of homelessness for me was the isolation. At times I felt there was no one in the world who saw me as a human being. While I have a hard time with eye contact myself, I saw that no one met my eyes; they turned their heads and hurried along.
By giving directly to homeless people you give a gift of recognizing their humanity and improving their sense of dignity and self-esteem. The items listed may not be dramatically life changing but they can serve as an excuse to approach someone who needs your voice, someone who needs to know that someone cares.
Most of the gifts listed below are less than $10 each and many are less than a dollar. So for the cost of a fancy coffee you can make a few lives a little better.
For your convenience, I've listed an online source for some items below their descriptions in case you don't have time to go out and shop for these small gifts.
Mylar Emergency Blankets
Mylar blankets make great gifts for homeless people whether the weather is warm or cold. Mylar emergency blankets can keep in warmth better than any other available blanket of their size but they can also be turned around and used to keep heat off.
Mylar blankets come folded up tight into neat, pocket-sized packets which is why they are perhaps the best blankets to get for people with very little space to store them.
Keep It Warm or Cool
Mylar blankets or Mylar sleeping bags make thoughtful gifts. They are often sold near camping equipment in sporting good stores.
I've found Mylar sleeping bags to be particularly good at trapping heat in.
Bring a Little Warmth Along With You
Those little disposable hand warmers can provide warmth and comfort on cold days and nights. Even in warmer climates, homeless people get cold at night.
Disposable shoe warmers also make great gifts for homeless people. Shoe warmers are usually found near hand warmers and other types of disposable heat packs. Heat packs like these can usually be found in sporting goods departments and sporting goods stores. They can also often be found in dollar stores. I took the picture of the hand warmer display in a dollar store.
Granola Bars, Energy Bars, Cookies, Individually Wrapped Snacks
Granola bars or energy bars are packed with calories and nutrients yet they are light and easy to carry, they taste good, and they don't spoil easily.
Granola bars make nice little gifts because it's easy to slip a handful of them into your pocket in case you run into someone who is homeless. They are also almost universally appreciated because they won't spoil or make a mess in a homeless person's pocket, backpack, or bag.
Unfortunately, many homeless people have problems with their teeth. So it's probably a good idea to also have some individually wrapped snacks that are softer, like soft cookies, little cakes, or even individual cups of apple sauce with plastic spoons taped on top.
Bottled Water, Gatorade
In the summer, most homeless people can't get out of the heat so gifts like bottled water or Gatorade can help them to avoid heatstroke. If you put the bottles in your freezer overnight, they'll provide even more cooling power.
It's really, really hard to stay clean when you don't have a bathroom of your own. Moist towelettes can help a homeless person feel cleaner when no access to running water is available. I've found that moist towelettes are good for quickly dealing with stains on clothing before they set.
Clean in a Packet
Moist towelettes are nice for after meal clean up and just to get the dust off your hands and face whenever you want.
A lot of heat can be lost through an uncovered head in cold weather. Hats are probably the single most effective item of clothing to keep a person warmer.
You can buy cheap knit hats at most discount stores such as Family Dollar, Big Lots, and Dollar General. The ones in the photo were at Dollar Tree for just one dollar each.
Knit hats make great gifts even during warmer weather because they can also help keep hair cleaner when sleeping outside as well as keeping heads warmer in the cold.
Which Gift is Best?
Of these small gifts for homeless people, which do you think is best?
Gloves can keep homeless hands warm in cold weather and at night in warmer weather.
You can often find those stretchy, one-size-fits-all gloves at dollar and discount stores for about a dollar in many dollar and discount stores.
Magic Stretch Gloves
One size fits most stretchy gloves are a good choice because they, well, fit most.
Dental Care Items
It's hard to keep up with dental hygiene when you are homeless so a toothbrush and a sample-sized tube of toothpaste make another great, compact gift.
You can find these items at big box stores like Target and Walmart, in dollar stores, and in drug stores, often in the sample size aisle. These items usually cost under a dollar.
Compact First Aid Kits
A compact basic first aid kit would be welcomed by many homeless people.
Combs are one of the easiest small gifts to find and to carry. They are also easy to lose so replacements are often very welcome. They are durable and take up very little space.
You can get a big package of combs for just a few dollars at most discount stores. You can also find them in dollar stores and big box stores.
The Basic Black Comb
If you ever had school pictures as a child, you ought to recognize these. The basic black plastic comb is still the easiest to carry, most compact hair grooming tool.
It can be hard to find a drinking fountain every single time you need a drink. A canteen can provide a way to carry a good supply of water around easily. Regular water bottles are good, too, but they are not as easy to carry if one is carrying all of his or her possessions around, too.
Canteens are harder to find than many of the other items on this page but they make wonderful gifts for homeless people. You can find them online and in military surplus stores. Also, they can sometimes be found in the sporting goods departments of department stores.
I like the military or Boy Scout styled canteens that are covered in fabric and have a strong carrying strap.
Basic, old-fashioned canteens work very well for people who walk around a lot and have limited access to drinking water.
The shoulder strap makes this canteen easy to carry around.
Drink Mix Packets
Homeless people can usually get access to water but water can get boring sometimes. Drink mixes such as hot cocoa envelopes or fruit flavored drinks also provide calories and sometimes other nutrients. Instant breakfast packets (the ones that don't take milk) are really great because they provide a meal as well as a beverage that is a treat. It's easy to carry a few in your purse or pocket in case you run into someone who might like some.
Hand sanitizer, used properly may kill the flu virus and prevent the spread of germs.
Purse sized sanitizer gel is another cheap and easy gift to carry around. I also like the individual packets of hand sanitizer or wipes impregnated with hand sanitizer as they won't leak as easily or as much fluid if they do.
Sanitizer for Better Hygiene
Hand sanitizer is good to have around when access to running water and soap is not always a given.
Get Out There and Do It! - Give gifts to homeless people
Get out there and give...
And then come back here to tell us about it. Drop me a line in the guest book below and I'll link back to your personal account of giving to homeless people.
- The Strangelands
"The other day was my birthday. When my princess asked me what I wanted, I told her I didn't know, and I'd think about it. When I finally realized what I wanted, I'm pretty sure it surprised her almost as much as it surprised me. I wanted homeless ki
When your resources are limited, a sewing kit can help keep clothing in good repair. Sewing kits make very practical gifts and are both very portable and very inexpensive. I strongly recommend the kind that come in sturdy, reusable cases.
This is one of the better travel sewing kits for the price. Other kits have cheap plastic boxes that come apart too easily. This one actually holds up to use for a while.