How to Make a Homeless Care Package That’s Actually Useful
Published July 27, 2023
When we talk about helping the homeless, the first things that come to mind are donating to shelters or volunteering in charities and soup kitchens. But there’s a really easy way to extend help if you can’t do all of those things: a homeless care package.
What is a Homeless Care Package?
Also known as a homeless care kit or simply “care kit,” a homeless care package is a bag full of items that are useful to a homeless person. These include things that the homeless need the most, like food, water, and old clothes.
As you probably know, people experiencing homelessness lack a lot of things. While many local charities and shelters are helping them, they can only do so much. As a result, many homeless people have to go through the day without a proper meal or even clothes warm enough to last through the winter.
This is why care packages or blessing bags are essential. For people experiencing homelessness, a care package is more than just a bag that contains the things they need the most. It’s also a symbol of hope and a way to let them know that someone still cares.
But making a homeless care package is more than just putting together things that you’re not using anymore. You need to be careful about what you’re putting in it too. Below, we list some of the things to keep in mind when making care packages for the homeless.
What to Put in a Homeless Care Package
Basically, homeless care packages should contain things that a homeless person needs the most. This includes:
1. Non-Perishable Food
When packing foods into your blessing bags, keep in mind that a homeless person doesn’t have access to a fridge or the usual kitchen and dining tools like most of us. So make sure to give them foods that are ready to eat and can last for days, such as:
- canned stews
- bottled water
- instant cereal packets
- dry cereals
- gum or mints
- canned beans or tuna
- peanut butter
- peanut butter crackers
- pre-packed cheese
- tuna or chicken salad snack packs
- cup noodles
- cracker packs
- fruit snacks
- pudding cups
- apple sauce
- trail mix
- single-serve juice boxes
- tinned soup
- instant oatmeal packets
- single-serve jam packets
- rice crackers
- shelf-stable milk substitutes (almond, soy, oat, etc.)
- dried fruits
- instant coffee packets
- honey packets
As much as possible, choose cans with pull-tab lids for easy opening. Not all homeless people carry can openers. If you have the funds, buy in bulk so you can save some money. Otherwise, you can just pull items from your pantry. Just make sure it still has at least a few months before expiry.
Apart from food, the homeless desperately need personal hygiene items too. The most useful ones are:
- soap bar or travel-sized liquid soap
- shampoo or shampoo bar
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- dental floss
- wet wipes or baby wipes
- individually wrapped toilet rolls
- nail clippers
- feminine hygiene products
- body lotion
- petroleum jelly
- cotton buds
- hand sanitizer
Put all these in a separate Ziploc bag so your food items won’t smell of soap or shampoo. There are also lots of premade first-aid kits you can buy in offline and online stores if you have no time to put all these together.
3. First Aid Kit
Living on the streets, homeless individuals are constantly exposed to situations where first aid is necessary. So if you can, include the following items in your care kit too:
- antibacterial wipes
- antiseptic wipes
- Tylenol or Advil
- gauze bandage
- adhesive tape
- antibiotic ointment
- instant cold pack
- hydrocortisone cream (for insect bites)
- antihistamines (for allergies)
Other items you can tuck into your care packages are:
- ziplock bags
- thick wool socks
- warm gloves
- body blankets
- hand warmers
- sewing kits
- local gift cards
- restaurant or grocery store vouchers
- words of encouragement
- local resources guide
What Not to Put in a Homeless Care Package
Now that you know what you put in homeless care packages, here are some items that you should avoid putting at all costs:
- Perishable goods. As I’ve said, the homeless have no access to refrigeration. So avoid putting fresh goods that will only last a day or two.
- Hard foods. While a granola bar or beef jerky may last months or years, they’re not ideal for the homeless. Remember that most of them don’t have access to dental services. As such, these items may do more harm than good.
- Sugary foods. As I said, homeless individuals don’t have ready access to dental services. Plus, if they are suffering from diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, these can worsen with too much sugar intake. In short, any food item that can spike up one’s blood sugar is an ultimate no-no.
- Old clothes. Yes, the homeless need clothes. But it’s hard to guess a person’s size, especially if you’re handing out care packages to a variety of people. So apart from socks and gloves, avoid putting any clothing items in general.
- Bible or any religious literature. If you’re a Christian, reading a bible verse or two during your darkest moments would be really helpful. But keep in mind that not all homeless people are Christians. Instead of helping, it might even come off as offensive to them. Thus, refrain from putting any sort of religious texts in your care packages.
- Sharp or Bladed Objects. This one is pretty obvious. For safety and security reasons, you should never put any bladed or sharp objects inside homeless care kits.
- Matches. Aside from the fact that the homeless probably don’t have any use for matches, it’s a fire hazard and may put the community at risk.
If you’re not sure whether to include an item or not, a good rule of thumb would be to put yourself in the shoes of the homeless people you’re giving them to. If you don’t have your own place or are living in the streets, will you be able to use it? Keep in mind that care packages should improve the lives of homeless people, not give them more troubles to worry about.
Handing Out Care Packages
There are a lot of ways to hand out care packages for homeless individuals. The easiest is to give it to a random homeless person you meet on the street.
If you can convince a couple of friends or family members to make their own homeless care kits, then all the better. You can bring them together and go to homeless shelters or local public parks that the homeless frequent. If you’re not comfortable approaching a random homeless person, you can also partner with a local homeless charity. They’re usually swamped with homeless people asking for basic necessities, so those care kits would be very much welcome.
If you’re personally giving out the care kits, just remember to ask them first if they want help. Some homeless individuals don’t readily accept help from anyone, either because of pride or lack of trust in strangers. If you’ve been on the streets for some time, you’ve probably seen enough to convince you not to accept anything handed out by a complete stranger. So if some of them refuse to accept what you’re giving, don’t be offended. There are a lot of homeless who’d be more than willing to accept those care packages.
Also, don’t forget to go about it with respect. Though rare, some people just throw homeless care packages right out of their car windows. Homeless or not, nobody deserves that kind of treatment. Make time to approach them, talk to them, and hand out the care package respectfully. But make sure you don’t go in alone. Go with another adult (your partner, friends, family members). I’m not saying that homeless people are dangerous, but it’s undeniable that there are some bad eggs out there. In these cases, it doesn’t hurt to take some extra precautions.
That said, handing out care packages is one of the best things you can do for the homeless. Sometimes, it only takes a single act of kindness to make someone’s day. And at the end of the day, a little bit of kindness is all this world really needs.
Donate To The Poor & Homeless Of South Florida
Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen has fed the poor and homeless in South Florida over 900,000 hot meals since 1993. Our tax deductible non profit organization also accepts and distributes donations such as clothing, toiletries, shoes, bicycles, and more. You can donate to help the poor and homeless through our website.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer and devoted Christian. She has a passion for writing about topics related to morality and helping the poor and homeless. She is the lead author for the Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen blog.
Correct Digital, Inc is paid by private donors to provide website digital marketing services to this non-profit organization.