Hank and I made Homeless Survival Kits as part of a Life List goal to do a holiday project together. It surprised me by becoming an easy way for Hank to ask me questions, so I wrote about that over here: Talking to My Kid About Homelessness Without Giving Him Nightmares. This is something that has come up a lot in San Francisco, where we have a lot of folks on the streets.
We do give money to our local food bank, but I’d like to have something on me to offer when people ask for help, so Hank doesn’t get the message that you can be indifferent to people in trouble. I did a little research on what to put in our kits, and we ended up using:
Gallon-sized, rainproof ziplock bags
Folding travel toothbrushes
Kind bars (softer to chew than granola)
More items to consider:
Cheese or peanut butter crackers
Vienna sausages with pull off lids
Plastic forks and spoons
Additional ziplock bags to keep belongings dry
There’s a good thread on Meta-Filter that has a lot of suggestions in comments. You can drop your kits off at a local shelter, or give them out individually.
Also, some nice things to consider generally:
Softer food is easier for people to chew if their teeth are hurting. Homeless people don’t have access to dentists or often any way to keep their teeth in shape, so consider that when you’re choosing food.
Hydration can be a big problem when you don’t have a house. If you’re offering food, try to offer a drink as well.
Take your leftovers, and request plastic silverware. If you live in a big city, never turn down your leftovers when you can hand them to someone within a few feet of the door, or leave them on top of the nearest bench or post box for someone to find. I told a waiter I was leaving the rest of my dinner out, and he taped silverware and a napkin to the top. Genius! So now I request one if the place seems to offer takeout. Also, I like to write the date and time on the box if I have a pen.
If you have any simple habits you’ve adopted to help out the homeless people in your community, or any advice to offer if you’ve been homeless yourself, please let us know in comments. And Happy Holidays, team!