Making kits for homeless people might not seem all that thrifty, but it’s such a beautiful way to give back to your community. In fact, one of our core values as a family is volunteering and teaching our children to volunteer.
DIY Kits for Homeless People
That said, part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money in efficient and sometimes unique ways. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord all together), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs.
These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you need to reevaluate what is important to you if you truly want to become debt-free. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, because if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)
Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is ACTUALLY essential to our grandest dreams and fullest life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.
Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up or adjust weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could instead drastically improve their life?
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Kit for Homeless People?
I am not suggesting you completely alter your lifestyle for someone else, but just stop and think for a moment where that $5 coffee or the cost of a random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused where you spent it. If you were spending $5/day on non-essentials, but cut 2 days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.
Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not – in fact, missing 2 of your 7 indulgences per week would make those other 5 more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card or student loan or car payment. That’s a great deal!
But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.
Dollar Tree Homeless Care Packages
During the winter, I like to create care packages for the homeless, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24 pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.
If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.
Things to Include in a Homeless Kit
- Lip balm
- Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, apple sauce pouches, packaged tuna, etc
- Hygiene products
- Bus passes
- Quarters for laundry
- Socks, hats, and gloves
- Sunscreen (unscented)
- “Hot Hands”
- We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help the homeless with day-to-day needs.
You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so turn to those for these kits. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out as you come across someone in need.
What Not to Include in a Kit for Homeless People
- Hard foods, like beef jerky
- Toothbrushes or other easy-to-get hygiene products
- Clothing that needs to be sized
- Scented lotions or soaps – especially don’t put with food!
- Bulk items that would be hard to carry around
I say to skip hard foods because of course many of those who are currently homeless may not have access to a dentist and may be unable to eat these kinds of foods. I also recommend skipping toothbrushes, mouth wash, hand sanitizer, etc.because these items are usually easy to get at a homeless shelter. And of course never put anything scented in with food, as it will make the food inedible. I personally avoid scented products all together, as you never know what one’s sensitivities may be. Along those same lines, I also try to be mindful of including anything with peanuts or at the very least make separate kits for those who may have nut allergies.
The Power of Giving
The power of a few small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, and not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates perspective that is invaluable, and on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.
So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and you’ll be better in the long run for it.
Have you ever created a homeless kit before?
I’d love to hear other ideas/suggestions of what to include, post ’em in the comments below!
I love this with every ounce of me. I volunteered at the homeless shelter full time for a year (feeding breakfast and dinner) before leaving Canada and what I used to do for the peeps there was buy them cigarettes. Now I know this probably sounds ridiculous but many of them smoke butts off the ground or dig in ashtrays for butts. I can get a carton at the reserve for $15 and hand out 10 packs. It was always like Christmas for them when I did this. But fear not, I put food in their bellies too!! 🙂
I love this so much!! ^_^
What an amazing idea, what you can do to spread a little further put 5 maybe 4 cigarettes in a and a blessing bag make some with cigarettes and some without being homeless myself and a smoker that would be a gift. The best snacks are slim jims beef jerky, bologna sandwich do you want to put cheese I suggest putting this cheese on the side granola bars are the worst not many of us eat them then there are some that don’t have teeth so that’s not going to help them at all. Potato chips all flavors water or cans of Cola , we aren’t picky could be generic is actually probably cheaper or about the same as a case of water
Socks are necessity all times of the year winter months gloves Scully caps, hand warmers, body wash shampoo conditioner and lotion not many of us use bar soap cuz we have no way to save it so it pretty much gets thrown away the body wash you can keep in your backpack
Thank you for the ideas and logical input. Not ever being homeless we would know know these things 👍💕
How do the homeless cook?
I am a Girl Scout leader and have supplies to make cook stoves from #10 cans and home made Buddy burners. These items are light weight, can be transported and reused. Is this something the homeless may need for cooking?
Hobo Stove https://imgur.com/gallery/JDML1U4
Church key https://cdnimg.webstaurantstore.com/images/products/large/29339/624514.jpg
Cat food can alcohol stove https://andrewskurka.com/how-to-make-a-fancy-feast-alcohol-stove/
P-38 GI can opener https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-38_can_opener
Metal spoon or plastic spork. Folding pocket knife. Chop sticks
$2.79 Pot or Metal cup like IMUSA R200-12 1.25qt https://www.goodmans.net/i/8691/imusa-r200-12w-aluminum-mug-12-cm.htm
Most dont . The G*v* r* m3n* has made it so hard to just be alive its not illegal to be with out a home and yet they have stripped away every single thing that you actually need to live. For example food a need of survival they have made asking for help with money illegal and so most people are obligated to break the law or dig threw trash to eat which in its self is also illagal. So We are screwed either way just for one exaple.
I quit smoking but one thing I will never be is a reformed smoker. I think it’s awesome that you give them cigs. You are to be commended. It lightens their stress. Thank you for your kindness
I do this too, especially as a former smoker.. not passed giving outca cold brewery either.
Love hearing about all people do for the homeless.
I do he same get cigarettes from the reserve.
I put a pack into a clear bag with other items I purchase from a dollar store
such as socks ,t-shirts, gloves, hats, rope, tarp, etc..
I call them stay safe bags.
Friends and I make lunch bags as well. 😊👍
I just came across your article and I just wanted to say that it’s so refreshing to see people like you giving back to people in need. I actually started something like this with a friend last year and we bought everything from the Dollar store. With $50 we were able to put together 8 care packages. We included baby wipes & feminine napkins for the females. Anyway, thanks for sharing such a thoughtful article. One small change can make a world of difference!
What a lovely idea. I was thinking about a similar thing. Thanks for the ideas of what to include and for spreading how easy it is to make a small sacrifice to help others. A little bit can mean the world to someone in need!
This has been a wonderful article. I have been trying for a year to figure out how to pay for it. Today, I have a talent for in thrift stores going in with 2$ and come out with something worth 15 or more, what an awesome way to use that money. We have a lot of homeless people here and I will be so proud to help. Blessings!
I work with the largest homeless ministry in our city. Lip balm, sunscreen, wet wipes, deodorant, lotion, underwear, and socks are a MUST. The things that the homeless say is not donated enough are socks and underwear. Imagine not being able to do your laundry or shower often… what would the most valuable things be? Some dollar stores have packs of body wipes, packs of 3 lip balms, deodorant, lotion, and more. If possible, wash socks inside out first to get rid of all the lint.
I have found giving a food card or $5 lets the folks go into a fast food place as a paying customer . Many homeless have shared that they are not allowed in the places. They are then allowed use of the restroom , getting warmed up and something to eat. I also packed a 3 inch tall pill bottle with first aid stuff. Bandaids, alcohol wipes, q tips, three cough drops and tooth flossers and a lip balm they are small and light and not too expensive. I have also packed a pair of socks with the items. All in a zip lock bag to keep it dry.
That is very insightful! I would never have made the connection between being a paying customer and being able to use the bathroom! I’ll start budgeting for this.
At this time, I buy 20 yards of fleece fabric, cut it into 2 1/2 yard pieces and you have nice blankets to give to guys asking for handouts at the street lights – I’ve never been turned done!
I do “Socks of Love”. Take a pair of socks; roll one up and place in toe of the other. Then fill with hygiene items, etc. Women’s socks should include sanitary items. I include wet wipes, too. One of the most requested items of those in a local tent city was toilet paper.
Has anyone ever given reusable sanitary pads for the females? Seems more practical then disposable. They can be washed out and reused. I was just looking at some posts on Pinterest for shoeboxes, and that was a suggestion.
The issue is them not having the space to dry them out.
Doing laundry is often an issue, I have a homeless son and that’s a big problem.
It’s an excellent idea to add information about local shelters, food banks, etc.
Absolutely, thank you! 🙂
I’ve done this for years. But I put the items in a large garbage bag which could be used as a mat or poncho. The item that (literally) gets squeals of delight is a roll of toilet paper!
I have made bags for the homeless for several years now. I saved small bottles of lotions from hotels and included that in my bags along with bandaids, women’s feminine pads, toothpaste,
face masks, alcohol pads, lotions, plastic silverware, aspirin, safety pins, bags of microwave popcorn, breakfast bars, peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers, any snack items, pencils, notepads. I now know that mens white crew socks are the number one item the homeless people need and want along with shoes. I went onto Pinterest and printed a “Checklist For Blessing Bags” with many new items to include in my next bags. I also learned that keeping all kinds of plastic containers, wash them and fill them with many items these people can use.
Black crew socks do not show dirt as quickly.
And stay black no matter how many times you wash them. Don’t turn dingy grey like white socks. And no bleach needed.
That’s a really great point, I hadn’t thought of that!
In the winter cotton socks are not the best because they are not really very insulating. Wool socks, if you can afford to give them, are a better donation.
https://www.pinterest.com/nvegetarian/homeless-help-and-ideas-for-low-income-families/ Two of my Pinterest boards with a variety of ideas.https://www.pinterest.com/nvegetarian/seattle-homeless-people-in-tent-cities-tiny-house-/
Since Covid, everything has stopped here. A church used to give showers, free laundry service, free haircuts, clothes, breakfast, foodbank, counseling, etc. every Saturday. FREE phones at 1-800-safelink. Some colleges have free tuition, books and lodging for homeless, prior to Covid. The organizations that ask for car donations, rather working cars should be donated to worthy homeless for a safe place to lock possessions and sleep.
Im going to do this in arizona in the summer when its over 100 degrees every day
While I certainly have compassion for those who struggle to overcome the addiction to nicotine, I would never provide homeless with cigarettes. You state yourself in the article the amount of money to be saved from foregoing a pack day habit, to turn around and do good with…by buying cigarettes? What I would do consider though would be a Bic lighter. It could be a lifesaver in the right scenario.
Not meant as a reply to yours Marcella. Fat fingers, small phone!
I buy shopping bags or sometimes small backpack at Dollar Tree. I also buy the plastic tubs with lids and put lip balm, bandaids, alcohol wipes, safety pins, emery boards, nail clippers, hair ties, and floss picks. I get almost every thing at Dollar Tree. I always put a pair of new socks, water, a wash cloth, feminine wipes or wet wipes, toothbrush, comb, or small hair brush, sun block in summer and hand warmer in winter, lotion, deodorant, pens, small notebook…I know it seems like a lot but many times their stuff gets lost, stolen, ruined and these are just basic hygiene items that really make a difference. I also fill a gallon bag with a bottle of water and dog food to pass out to the people with dogs. If I can find mosquito repellent cheaply I will stock up on it. I look for this stuff all year long and watch for clearance items.
You’re a wonderful person. Thank you for doing your part! 🙂
Some salons in the surrounding rural counties collect small bottles of hair care and other personal products such as sample sizes and those found in hotels. The collection is given to women’s shelters and homeless shelters. Also, homeless people living on the street can use bottles of hand sanitizer, which works as both a deodorant and as a disinfectant.
So many excellent ideas here. One thing I do is to use things in “pop-top” cans like a can of tuna, or even the packaged tune/crackers combo; cheese/crackers; Vienna Sausages in pop-top cans. A few healthy snacks with being mindful that lots of people have nut allergies. Then being respectful to place things in neatly. I also add in The Lord’s Prayer – 6 prayers will fit on a piece of 81/2 by 10 paper then each cut to size to add. Things that make common. I try to put myself in a place of homelessness and what would I need to have.
Sanitary items for women, hand sanitizer and body wipes are a must; toothpaste/toothbrush. Hair combs and clips; Sunscreen and body lotion during the Summer and hand warmers and Mylar emergency blankets, knitted hats; scarves; gloves for warmth. The need is great, getting even greater very soon. There but for the grace of Yahweh could be any of us with the times that are just ahead.