The Top Items Homeless Shelters Need the Most

If you are feeling generous this holiday season, acquaint yourself with your local homeless shelters’ most-needed items. Shelters are responsible for providing for numerous people on any given day and need as many donations as they can get. They often have limited resources for their patrons because some necessities are less available. Backpacks USA has provided a guide to the most in-demand items by homeless shelters so that you can update your donations list and be an especially conscientious donor this year.


Many people donate gently used and new clothes to homeless shelters and secondhand stores. However, only a small portion of those donations are unused socks and underwear. Most shelters around the world need these items desperately.


Shelters go through socks very quickly, as they are one of the most sought-after items by the men, women, and children who utilize their facilities; therefore, they are an excellent addition to homeless care packages. You can help someone in need replace an extremely worn pair of socks by donating fresh socks to your nearest homeless shelter. 


New and unused underwear is among the top items homeless shelters need the most. Though all demographics need underwear, it is one of the items donated least to homeless shelters, so the demand heavily outweighs shelters’ supplies. Consider purchasing a variety of sizes and types of underwear to provide for a wider audience at homeless shelters.

Bedding Items

Many folks in need go to homeless shelters for a warm place to sleep. The high demand for beds leads shelters to ask for more bedding material donations. Contact your local shelter to see if they accept gently used bedding or only new materials. Some shelters run mattress drives, so if you are looking to remove a mattress from your home, keep an eye out for any accepting organizations.


Pillows are a simple item that we often take for granted, but for someone without a home, it’s one less thing to keep them up at night. Homeless shelters are consistently in need of pillows to provide as much comfort as possible for individuals and families staying at their facilities.

Blankets and Sheets

Homeless shelters prefer to stock an ample number of sheets and blankets, especially in winter months. They often blanket pass donations to people experiencing homelessness who come to the shelter seeking warmth, so the more, the merrier. Typically, shelters only accept new sheets to promote the health and safety of those they shelter.

Seasonal Wear

The change of seasons brings attention to donation items that are especially helpful during colder months.


Help keep those in your community warm by participating in your local coat drive. Donate coats your family has accumulated over the years and no longer needs. A coat is much more useful when it’s keeping someone warm than when it’s just sitting in a closet.

Winter Accessories

Winter accessories like gloves, scarves, and hats are in high demand during the holiday season. If you’re participating in a local coat drive, check to see if they are also accepting other winter gear.

Hygienic Products and Toiletries

These products promote good hygiene in homeless shelter patrons. Basic proper hygiene can prevent a host of health issues and are constantly low at homeless shelters. Good hygiene can also improve self-confidence in people who have an unstable income or are experiencing homelessness. Different hygienic products offer different benefits, though all of them are essential in plentiful bulk hygiene kits.

Dental Hygiene

Good mouth hygiene is essential to avoid diseases of the mouth and rotting teeth. Homeless shelters often provide dental items to those who seek them. Shelters only accept dental hygienic products that are unused or unopened. Items with a high demand include toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. For mouthwash and toothpaste, shelters typically prefer them in travel sizes for easy transportation and distribution.


Toiletries are much appreciated by homeless shelters. The supply of these items depletes quickly at shelters, so they are nearly always welcome. Access to toiletries used for bathing can have a great influence on people’s mental health. Regular bathing can improve mood and self-esteem. This confidence can make a world of difference to people and families who are financially struggling. If you’d like to collect toiletries for donations or create hygiene gift kits, make sure to add a few of the following: 

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower caps
  • Face and body wash
  • Soap
  • Shower gel
  • Shaving cream and razors

Menstrual Hygiene

Inaccessibility to menstrual hygiene items is a serious issue that many people who experience homelessness encounter. People without access to these items often resort to uncomfortable materials to manage their cycles, like wadded tissue or crumpled newspaper. Menstrual products are necessary to accommodate the natural monthly occurrence, yet the supply is extremely limited at homeless shelters.

The top items homeless shelters need the most regarding menstrual care include tampons and disposable or reusable pads. Items like menstrual cups and period underwear are eco-friendly and long-lasting, but they are not ideal for a person who does not have frequent access to laundry or a private sink to rinse them.

Infant Necessities

Like menstrual hygiene items, baby products are common donations to women’s shelters because of their clientele. Women’s shelters are predominantly mothers and children and can best accommodate their patrons when menstrual and baby hygiene products are available. Baby items to consider for donation are:

  • Diapers (and lots of them!)
  • Pull-ups
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby formula
  • Infant- and child-sized clothing

Additional Hygienic Items

These items are often absent from donation lists but are some of the highest in demand at homeless shelters:

  • Toilet paper
  • Deodorant
  • Combs and hairbrushes
  • Nail clippers and nail files
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitation wipes

Other Household Items


Add laundry detergent to your list of necessary donation items for homeless shelters. Because shelters rotate bedding daily, they go through tons of laundry. In addition to having laundry of their own, many shelters offer cheap or free laundry access for people living there or coming off the streets.


Many people use shelters for their bathing needs, making towels a much-appreciated donation. Purchase new towels for your local shelter to support their shower facilities.

Donating Your Time

If collecting and donating items is not feasible for you, consider donating your time. Many shelters utilize volunteers to run donation drives and other organization events. Volunteering is a great opportunity to explore your interests and serve causes that are meaningful to you. Volunteering can also serve as a family bonding experience and a reminder of what the holiday season is really about. 

Whatever your donation list looks like this year, check out our massive catalog of wholesale products. We offer plenty of items in bulk so that you can provide for your local shelter at a price that works for you.


The Top Items Homeless Shelters Need the Most

Charity and donations