Monday, November 25, 2013

Homeless Care Kits

Hey everyone!

I know this may seem like an out of the ordinary post for me but it's something I've been wanting to share for awhile. The cold weather has given me the push to finally share it with you!

Near where I work, there are lots of overpasses and intersections and the homeless tend to gather and panhandle at each light. Whenever I see the homeless my heart goes out to them, I wonder, how did they end up here? Illness? Bankruptcy? Bad luck? I do my best not to judge and rather to think that I'm it's a difficult way of life and that I'd like to help in some small way no matter the reason they are there. I want to help but don't feel comfortable giving cash. However, I hate not doing anything when I feel so blessed in my own life. A few months ago, I heard from someone at church that in their family they put together "kits" to keep in their car for the homeless. They mentioned including toothbrushes, food, and other nonperishable items. I thought this was a great idea and that I wanted to do it! 

The next time I went to Costco, I looked for nonperishable food items that would fit in a gallon size Ziploc bag. I found tuna packets and granola bars and then gathered other items from the grocery store.

Here is my first attempt at these bags! I put together a set of 5, each costing about $5 each. I think you could easily spend less if you are a savvier shopper than me!

My reasons for these items:

  • Non-perishable: Some weeks I don't ever stop at a light where there is a homeless person that I can give the bag to. Whether summer or winter, I don't want the food to spoil. (Usually they only last a max of a few weeks though before I'm able to give them all out)
  • Individually packaged, I would hate for anyone to think I did something horrible to the food (I guess I've been scarred by those stories of trick or treaters?) so I bought all prepackaged foods, even though they are more expensive.  I also figured, the person receiving them could throw them in a backpack and save them until they needed them. With fresh food, they might have received food that day and don't need more that particular day. I often see Meals on Wheels bringing dinner to these homeless by me. 
  • Practical-I provided some hygiene products as well as food to try and provide for a few different areas of their needs. 
  • Somewhat nutritional- I included tuna fish (protein), fiber one bars (fiber and calories), and some fruit (assuming this is a rarity for them). They may be looking for straight calories. Yes, there are healthier things and perhaps they could care less about health but this is what I thought was useful and it's all food I like too. :)
  • Small-I wanted to have 1 easy size gallon size to hand through my window and that I could keep under my seat until I hand it out. 

Here's my first batch in photos:

I always ask the recipient if they would like it before I give it to them and so far no one has ever said NO! Several times I have been brought nearly to tears at the genuine gratitude for these kits- I think not only for the items inside but for someone paying attention to them and caring for them, even for just a moment. It has been so wonderful to give these out as they make me feel like I'm doing some small part to help others. (My intention is not to toot my own horn but to show that this has worked for me!) 


Here are other awesome ideas I found from the Portland Rescue Mission of items to include:
  • Water bottle
  • Socks
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Granola Bar or cereal bar
  • Fruit snack or applesauce cup
  • Crackers with peanut butter or cheese
  • Gift certificate to fast food
  • Hand wipes
  • Pack of Kleenex
  • Maxi pads
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Nail clippers
  • Band Aids
  • Chapstick
  • Comb or small brush
  • Mints, cough drops or gum
  • Rescue Mission/ Soup kitchen meal voucher
  • Community resources for shelters, food, employment etc. 
  • Gloves, scarf, etc.
  • Sunscreen
  • Note of encouragement
  • Mini shampoo, body wash etc. (hotel ones would be perfect sized!)
Some helpful notes for the packs:
  • When shopping think about the essentials: hunger, hygiene and warmth
  • Fragranced items such as soap, hand lotion or deodorant can negatively affect the taste of food items if placed in the same bag. Pack these separately if you choose to give them.
  • Feel free to use what you have at home. If you buy fruit snacks in bulk for your kids, throw some packs in. (I had a bunch of chocolate, and thought that it might be a nice treat for someone!)
  • Google homeless care kits and see countless other great ideas and packaging
Anyways, these are just some ideas to get you started! I hope these help at least some people like me that wanted to help but didn't know where to start. 

This would be an awesome project for your family to work on this holiday season! Grab some boxes of granola bars, chips, etc. at Costco and start packaging them up. I know my husband and I are going to make our next batch when we get back from our Thanksgiving trip!

Have you ever made these before? What works for you? Other cool things to include?

Note: Please note this information is just my opinions and my intentions are good. Please leave only positive and uplifting comments. I know people have lots of opinions on the homeless. I'd love to hear other great ideas to include in the kits. I do donate directly to programs for the homeless also but wanted something tangible I could do on a daily basis. 

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