People who experience homelessness greatly benefit from receiving care packages. These packages are also known as blessing or necessity bags. People refer to them with these terms since they often put all the items in a resealable plastic bag so they’re ready to hand out to those in need.
However, there are items you shouldn’t put into homeless care packages. While we know you mean well, certain things can do more harm than good. This guide will go through what to avoid and what to include in your blessing bags, which will enable you to help in the most effective ways.
Avoid Perishable Food
Since people without homes don’t have access to the luxuries of a standard kitchen, it’s best to avoid food that requires refrigeration. These items can spoil quickly, making them inedible.
Additionally, take care to avoid hard foods. Since many people without housing cannot visit a dentist regularly, these dietary choices can be difficult to chew and hurt their teeth.
Examples of hard foods to avoid include:
- Beef jerky
- Granola bars
- Hard candy
- Dried fruit
- Nuts and seeds
Go With Non-Perishables
There are many options you can put into your care package that are easy to consume, including:
- Apple sauce
- Bottled water
- Pudding cups
- Canned food with pop-tops
Be Mindful of Worn-Out Clothing
If you wouldn’t wear clothes with holes in them, you shouldn’t expect these items to go over well in a homeless care package. We recommend donating gently used clothes so people can make the most of them.
However, it’s more worthwhile to donate these items to a shelter rather than put them in care packages because it’s difficult to know which sizes people will need. A nonprofit organization can better distribute these items, and care packages work best with essentials that everyone can use.
Opt for Socks and Gloves
Winter accessories are often a good choice for clothes you can include, especially if you live in a cold climate. Consider putting socks and gloves into your blessing bag to make a difference.
It’s best to invest in quality thermal varieties, as these can last all winter. Socks and gloves are also more size-friendly than other clothing items.
Refrain From Religious Literature
While sharing your faith with someone can be a beautiful way to encourage a sense of solidarity, it’s important to recognize that everyone has different beliefs.
Some of our neighbors in need may not take well to your faith. Therefore, we find it best to leave religious literature out of care packages. If you would like to share your faith, you can ask a person experiencing homelessness if they would like to pray with you.
Include Notes From the Heart
Alternatively, you may want to include uplifting notes in your necessity bag that have no religious affiliation; it’s very thoughtful to write these by hand to serve as loving reminders. A handwritten note from the heart can lift someone’s spirits and remind them they’re loved.
Skip Possible Weapons
To protect everyone’s best interest, sharp or bladed objects shouldn’t be put into care packages—these include pocket knives and blunt utensils.
While you could think these items would help someone experiencing homelessness, it’s too easy for them to be used as weapons. If you want to include utensils, choose plastic varieties.
In addition to these sharp or bladed objects, you should avoid packing matches. While you want people without houses to stay warm, matches are a bad idea since they are ultimately a fire hazard.
Choose Helpful Extras
Instead, go with essentials that can help them stay safe. A warm blanket can provide some warmth on exceptionally cold nights and make sleeping easier. Flashlights have the power to help our neighbors in need navigate through the dark more easily at night.
Avoid Giving Cash
While people experiencing homelessness need financial aid, you should avoid giving them cash. It’s better to donate money to nonprofits directly, so they can help provide the essentials for those who need them. Cash has the potential to enable a person’s addiction, which will end up harming them more than helping them.
Gift a Meal
If you want to help provide someone with a meal, you can buy the food directly. Also, you might want to consider giving them gift cards for nearby fast-food restaurants.
Be Careful With Toiletries
It’s a good idea to put toiletries into blessing bags for those experiencing homelessness. However, for these items to work effectively, they should be packaged properly.
Any hand lotion, shampoo, or soap should be in its own plastic bag for an extra layer of protection. If these items open accidentally, they can easily ruin the food and other goods in the care package. Taking this step will ensure that all other items are ready for use.
Go With Easy-To-Pack Options
There are other toiletries you can include to assist with self-care. These items can help those without housing feel better about themselves. They also don’t require special packaging, like the shampoo and soap. The following are other easy-to-pack options:
- Wet wipes
- Hand lotion
- Lip balm
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Feminine hygiene products
- Comb or brush
Choose First-Aid Items Wisely
People experiencing homelessness can encounter emergencies, and first-aid materials have the potential to provide some much-needed assistance in these times.
You may want to include a travel-sized bottle of Tylenol or Motrin to help with aches and pains—only providing a small amount prevents any misuse. Bandages and gauze help when treating wounds. You can also include antibacterial wipes, as people without housing cannot always access soap and water.
Now you know which items you shouldn’t put into homeless care packages, and you also know which ones you can include. This will help you make an incredible impact in your community.
Proceed with caution and kindness when handing out these blessing bags. We find it best to bring a friend along when giving to people experiencing homelessness.
While most of these folks aren’t dangerous, there is safety in numbers. If you feel uncomfortable giving directly to someone without housing, you can bring your donations to local shelters.
Backpacks USA takes an active approach to help people experiencing homelessness. Our wholesale drawstring backpacks allow them to carry care package items and other essentials, making their days a little easier. Contact us today to see how you can make a difference.