This post will give the reader eight ways to help the homeless this winter.
Why a Specific Focus on Helping the Homeless in Winter?
I live in Ottawa in Canada. Our winters are brutally cold. It is not uncommon to have temperatures that go down to minus 25 to minus 40 degrees Celsius. During cold snaps, frostbite can develop in just a few minutes outside. If you live in a similar climate with cold winters you will understand the special concern for the homeless at this time of the year.
It always breaks my heart when I see homeless people outside sleeping on these brutally cold nights. While individually we cannot solve all the problems of homelessness, we can each intentionally focus on blessing one person at a time.
8 Ways to Bless the Homeless this Winter
1. Sturdy Winter Coat that Doubles as a Sleeping Bag
An amazing company in Detroit, MI produces coats that also double as extremely warm sleeping bags for homeless people. The company is called the Empowerment Plan . You can order one of their coats for $125 USD and give it to someone in your community. This company employs homeless people and teaches sewing skills! How awesome is that? It is also possible to do fundraising to buy a bunch to distribute to the homeless in your city. Check out their website to find out more.
2. Winter Clothing and Bedding
Consider supplying winter clothing such as mittens, scarves, snow pants, boots, thermal socks, and coats directly to the homeless or to homeless shelters in your city. The gift of a very warm sleeping bag would be a wonderful gift to a homeless person this winter. If you plan to give to a shelter, phone them first to see what the greatest needs are.
3. Waterproof Sleeping Mat from Plastic Bags
Do you know how to crochet? If so, you can make a waterproof sleeping mat for the homeless out of old plastic bags. The yarn is made out of the plastic bags that crochets into a comfortable waterproof mat. There is an extensive description and video here on how to do make these mats from an Australian organization called One Million Women. The mats are lightweight. They also wipe down and roll up easily.
4. Make and Distribute Homeless Blessing Bags
These bags will contain toiletry items, non-perishable food, minor first aid items, and some winter clothing. They can be given directly to homeless people or you can contact local shelters and make bags to specifically fit the shelter requirements. I have also written a more extensive post here on how to make blessing bags for the homeless.
5. Gift Cards to Fast Food or Coffee Shops
Even if homeless people sleep near coffee houses or fast food restaurants in the core of the city, they are often not welcomed in unless they are a paying customer. On brutally cold nights, what a blessing for a homeless person to be able to go in for a cup of hot coffee or a meal and stay in the warmth a while. Consider buying gift cards to coffee shops or other food establishments in the area(s) that many homeless people live, and then give them out freely to the homeless people you meet.
6. Respect and Attention
Slow down when you are outside. If you are passing someone who is homeless, look them in the eyes, smile and talk to them. Often homeless people feel invisible. Show some love by giving the gift of loving attention. Do even more by regularly praying for the homeless in your city.
I personally give money to the homeless people I meet (if I have it!). Some people choose not to do this for concern of how the money may be used. These are personal choices we each make. If you do give, try to engage with the person in conversation as you do. A smile and eye contact make a big difference to someone going through the experience of homelessness.
The other way you can help the homeless with money is by giving money directly to organizations serving the homeless in your city.
8. Volunteer at Homeless Shelters
During the holidays, homeless shelters and soup kitchens are often replete with volunteers. However, this is not always the case throughout the winter. See when they need volunteers the most and see when you can help during the times they are short on volunteers. Churches that serve the homeless may also be looking for Christian volunteers, so contact them to find out.
Homeless people are at special risk in the winter. As Christians, it is the heart of God to reach out to the poor and broken living on our city streets with practical help and love. This post gives 8 things you can do to specifically bless homeless people in your city this winter.
Let Me Know
What do you do to bless the homeless in your city personally? Leave me a comment below with any other ideas or your personal experience.
Please Do This Too
Consider sharing this post using the share buttons below so more people can be motivated to act on behalf of the homeless this winter. If you enjoyed this post and would be interested in receiving a monthly newsletter with resources on how to live a victorious and purpose-driven Christian life, please subscribe below. Thanks!