I saw a great idea on Pinterest that originated on the Kids With a Vision blog (a neighborhood outreach in Newport Hills). Their group is K-3rd grade, but I really think any age group would benefit from this service project.
Often when we run across homeless people, a lot of us freeze. We want to help, but then we hear the voices arguing in our heads about helping versus enabling addiction and other things. So next time, instead of fighting with yourself or your family about whether or not to give a homeless person money, hand them a “Caring Bag” instead. The bags should help meet some of the person’s current needs. You can even place a referral card to an agency that can provide the person with more in depth help.
So what goes in a caring bag? I would vary them a little by season, but start with a one or two gallon zip baggie. If you want to get fancy, you can use re-usable tote bags or have the children sew simple draw-string bags.
Once you have your bags, place some or all of the items listed below in the bag. Remember, the major concerns are cleanliness (will help prevent some disease and infection), food, hydration and protection from the elements. Here are my suggestions, but feel free to add and subtract based on the supplies you can get and where you live.
Generic Caring Bag:
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- tissues or handkerchief
- lip balm
- granola bars
- crackers and/or small cans of food with pop-tops
- band aids
- hand sanitizer
- water bottle
- pocket New Testament (you can often get cases of them fairly cheaply)
- extra pair of socks
- warmers (that don’t have to be heated in oven)
- extra bottle of water
- re-usable water bottle (with filter?)
- mini-fan with batteries (Dollar store)
Keep a caring bag or two in your car or in your bag if you live in a mass transit city. Take a group of people and hand out a lot of caring bags in areas like parks where homeless people often gather. Please be safe when you distribute the bags. Some homeless people suffer from mental illness. They may not mean to hurt you, but it can happen.
If you think of more items that should go in Caring Bags, please post a comment below and let me know what you added. Since our climate is not extreme, I may have missed something we don’t even use down here! Even if you can only put a couple of items in your caring bag, you are making a difference in a person’s life.