Are you wondering what you can do to personally bless the homeless in your city this winter? This post will give you a step-by-step breakdown of how to pack a blessing bag for the homeless. This is a great activity to do as a family or with a group of friends. The items selected below are based on what homeless have indicated in interviews they most want in care packages. If this cause touches your heart, please also see this post for other ways to bless the homeless this winter.
Why Blessing Bags for the Homeless?
The beautiful thing about blessing bags is there is the opportunity to make a personal connection with homeless people in your city. The best way to meaningfully connect as humans is 1 to 1 and face to face.
As you assemble the bags, you can be praying for the people who will get them. You can even add a personal message to them if you like.
Homeless shelters may also have lists of what they request if you are providing blessing bags directly to them. Feel free to reach out there if you prefer to do it that way.
Consider Specific Needs of Different People
Women and men have different needs. Bags for women of childbearing age will need to include menstrual products. Men may need shaving supplies. Several homeless people may have issues with their teeth, so foods need to be soft. Some people have pets, so consider the needs of people with pets on the street as well.
How to Pack a Blessing Bag
1. Get a Large Size Ziplock Bag
I like to get the largest size I can get. When you feel God’s spirit of generosity moving in compassion in you as you do this activity, I guarantee the bag will not be big enough for everything you want to put in it. Get the biggest bag you can. After they use the contents, they can use it to store their own items.
2. Hand and Foot Warmers
These Hot Hands are air activated natural body warmers. I like Hot Hands Toe, Hand, & Body Warmer Variety Pack which you can get on Amazon as it comes in a variety pack of hand, feet and body warmers. They can provide up to ten hours of heat and are a life saver in frigid winter temperatures.
3. Change for Bus or Laundry
Many people are concerned about giving the homeless money, but consider if you were homeless what you would need. They often feel intimidated entering establishments to ask for change. If they need to take a bus or use the laundromat having ready access to change will make life easier. I like to give about $5.00 worth of change in a smaller bag.
A bottle of water is always helpful.
5. First Aid Supplies
Many homeless people have problems with skin infections. For minor cuts having access to bandaid and antibiotic ointment is helpful.
6. Personal Cleansing Supplies
Provide baby wipes or antibacterial wipes to help with cleaning (I like Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes). A washcloth and soap are helpful as well. I also like to provide a non-alcoholic hand sanitizer (see BAC-D 621 Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer and Wound Care). There are travel toothbrushes that come with a toothpaste easily available in pharmacies and department stores. The toothbrushes come in a case for easy transport. Consider adding dental floss and non-alcoholic mouthwash. Listerine Total Care Alcohol-Free Anticavity Mouthwash is a good one for cavity prevention and breath freshening and comes in a travel size in a pack of twelve on Amazon.
Consider adding some travel sized shampoo as well. The small items you get from hotels can be helpful. Lastly, add some long lasting deodorant or antiperspirant.
7. Gift Cards for Warm Food
The best thing for the homeless in winter is to get out of the cold. Most coffee shops or fast food restaurants only allow paying customers to sit in their warm seating area or even use their restroom. Consider where you will be targetting homeless people to hand out these blessing bags and which establishments are in the area. Here in Canada, Tim Horton’s is the widely available coffeehouse. I buy gift cards from them to give away. However, McDonald’s, Subways or pizza shops may be more numerous in your area. Make sure to identify the amount clearly so the receiver knows how much they have available to spend. This way they can come in from the cold to enjoy a coffee or meal to a local establishment.
8. Warm Clothing Accessories
Your local dollar store or Amazon is a good source of these items. Pack in warm socks, mittens and a hat. If you live in a part of the country that rains a lot in winter consider a small rain poncho. If you have space in your blessing bag, there are very lightweight emergency mylar thermal blankets which can help with retaining heat.
9. Non-perishable Food
Here are some suggestions for non-perishable food.
- Applesauce school packs that come with a disposable spoon
- Energy bars
- Tuna and cracker packs
- Spreadable cheese or peanut butter with crackers
- Hot cocoa mixes that just add hot water
- Fig newtons snack packages
- Tinned chicken or tuna salad
10. Contact List for Services for the Homeless
Go online, or speak to local homeless services to get a list of services in the area you will be handing out the blessing bags. Put together a card with names, addresses and phone numbers of services that provide help to the homeless in the area. Include any churches on that list.
11. Encouraging Note
Lastly, I like to include a small card with a handwritten note inside. You can write whatever God leads you to, but I always try to communicate that God loves them.
Added Items for Special Needs
Provide menstrual products and new cotton underwear in bags for women. If you get free samples of skincare and makeup from shops like Sephora, feel free to add a few too.
Men may need disposable razors, shaving cream, and new cotton boxers.
For People with Dogs
There are several homeless people with dogs. Consider keeping dog treats, dog food (one that opens with no can opener), a doggie blanket and a collapsible bowl separate from your blessing bags. Keep the dog supplies in your car so that they will be readily available to give out to homeless people with dogs.
There is always some controversy about giving money to the homeless. I personally like to also give some cash. There are legitimate needs that money is the best remedy. I prefer not to make any judgments about whether the person will use the money for something like drugs, I want to give out of compassion.
Our Blessing Bag
This is what our blessing bags look like.
This post reviews how to put together a blessing bag for the homeless. It gives advice on personalizing the bags to specific needs of different people who are homeless.
Let Me Know
Have you done blessing bags for the homeless already? What ways have you helped the homeless in your city? Is there anything else you would suggest for blessing the homeless? Please leave me a comment below.
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