I’ve been fortunate enough to always have a roof over my head. I’ve never had the challenges of being homeless or being without basic needs or even wants. Many associate homelessness with mental illness, drug addiction, and lack of ambition – and oftentimes this is the case. Mental illness is probably the biggest contributor to homelessness. But some our just down on their luck financially, or are trying to escape an abusive situation without resources. No matter the cause of someone being homeless, it still doesn’t change the fact that these are human beings that have very basic needs.
There are obvious ways to help the homeless- donate money, food, and shelter. And those are certainly the biggest needs. There are other ways in which you can help those in need that most of us never think of.
Feminine Hygiene Products
Many shelters try to keep these products in stock, but they obviously run out. Could you imagine being a homeless woman who is unable to keep herself clean and free from odor due to the lack of a tampon. Next time you buy a box of tampons, buy two and donate one to your local shelter. In keeping with this theme, having an extra-tube of vaginal, anti-itch medication never hurt any woman.
Here is one charity, you might want to take note of:
Ethnic Hair Products
Like you, homeless individuals must wash their hair as well. And for Black homeless women, ethnic hair products are even scarcer in shelters. Black hair is often coarser and requires moisturizing products, unlike White women who often use products that strip moisture from the hair. This basic difference in hair texture doesn’t diminish in homeless women. A Black women will still need specific types of products in order to keep her hair moisturized and healthy.
Prepaid Cell Phone
Obviously, most of us aren’t prepared to add a homeless stranger to our family plan. But if you’re like me, you have a ton of old prepaid phones lying around. Add a few minutes to one of them, and hand it off. Access to a phone may allow someone to contact a long-lost relative or get a job.
Just make sure the phone is fully-charged (and has a charger) before you hand it over, just in case that person doesn’t have access to a power outlet.
Clean Clothes & Blankets
Offer to wash the clothes and blankets of someone homeless. Maybe you could even hand them a clean blanket next time you see them sleeping outside.
A headache can be debilitating if you can’t tend to it. A simple, individual packet of Tylenol could really help someone out.
Toys That Don’t Require Batteries
Many kids end up in shelters. Rather than throw your kids extra toys out, donate them to a family shelter. Toys that don’t require batteries are especially useful. Even with plenty of financial resources, I fail to replace batteries in my child’s toys. So imagine having no money– are batteries going to be on your shopping list? Probably not. Some popular battery-less toys include Transformers, sports equipment, puzzles, board games, dolls, and stuffed animals.
Pencils, paper, binders, crayons, and backpacks– homeless children have less access to these supplies.
Everyone thinks about babies, but what about homeless adults who become incontinent.
Supportive Shoe Inserts
Imagine having to walk-around all the time, you’re feet have to ache– I don’t care what shoes you have on. Having a comfy insert could really add to someone’s comfort.
If you are out in the sun pan-handling for hours, you’re bound to get sun-burned.
Homelessness doesn’t curtail lustfulness, and they to need to protect themselves.
Flashlight with Batteries
If you were sleeping outside at night, wouldn’t you want to see?!
An Address and Phone Number
Offer your address and phone number to someone homeless. With an address and phone number a homeless person can fill out a job application, apply for assistance, or just receive important mail. It can also provide a point of reference for family members searching for a homeless relative.
Many homeless people have pets. But obviously if you struggle to find your daily meal, getting dog food is not your priority.
Imagine sleeping on the ground night after night, a sleeping pad is a God-send. Just make sure it’s lightweight, and is easy to roll up and carry during the day.