DIY Giving Back: Essentials Bags for the Homeless
One of the toughest parts about digging in and getting your hands dirty with charitable work, is knowing where there is need. Some needs you can see, and some you can't – but do we ever really know the root of an issue, or the true demands of a population in crisis? Not really.
This is why non-profit organizations exist. To be that bridge for us – to allow us some access into the lives of those who need us most. To be advocates for them, and representatives of those forgotten, or downtrodden.
Embrace the help of non-profits. That is what they are there for.
We tackled one very complicated issue at Abel Impact this week by making some care packages for the homeless. There are many questions to address, and many things to consider with the homeless demographic:
1. Are they homeless, or are they living on the streets by choice?
2. Do they just need food and shelter? What else do they need?
3. What issues plague these people from day to day?
4. Will they use what we give them?
5. What can we do to truly help?
So, why did we choose to do these care packages/essentials bags? Because it was what we felt inspired by, it fit our budget, and we knew they were meaningful.
Those three things are important:
1. You are inspired by the action
2. It works for your budget/timing
3. It’s meaningful to who you are trying to help
These homeless bags are easy to assemble, and a great conversation piece, therefore perfect to do as an activity within an office (like us), or at home with the kiddos. This is something they can do very easily while you explain about the homeless need to them.
To answer the above questions, which informed our bag contents, here are some answers:
1. There are homeless people who have no home and have been impacted by unfortunate events. These people are often separated from family, have lost jobs and houses, or have struggled with addiction. These people typically want help, and to get back on their feet.
a. There are also people who are chronically living on the streets by choice, have no desire to change or improve their situation, and use handouts, NOT hand-ups to get by.
b. We decided to help those who are homeless and seeking help. We include notes with information on where to get help, which is KEY to not just serving these people, but encouraging them, and giving them more access to more resources.
2. Other than food and shelter, homeless people need socks and water. Water is key to life – period. So, we included refillable water bottles that will stay cold. Homeless folks are often walking a lot, cold, and left out in the elements – without access to laundry. Socks get worn out quickly, as do shoes, and then they get foot injuries, which are hard to heal, and impact the rest of their health. Keep the feet covered and you can keep someone healthier overall. This brings us to our next item…
3. Orange and apples = vitamins. Day to day these people are not getting the best nutrition. Vitamin C is one of the healing properties within our food. The more you can get, especially when your diet is not balanced, the better.
4. Something we knew they would use is a nice bag. We decided to get totes that were reusable, easy to sling over a shoulder, and also could collapse and be stored easily. Very multi-purpose as well. We also knew they could use a toothbrush – not to mention, these are biodegradable in case they’re tossed aside. Tooth decay is a huge issue when diet is imbalanced, so this tiny necessity can help a ton.
5. Lastly, we can stress enough the final touch which is a note of encouragement which is paired with information on where they can get help. This is so crucial. Getting people to a non-profit organization that has resources for them is the best thing you can do.
It took us about 30 minutes to assemble the bags, and we then split the up into our cars to hand out around town as we see fit. This is something so easy to do and to execute on, and you’ll know you really out your own touch on helping someone in major need.
Our full list of homeless bag items:
1. Reusable tote bag (HAE now)
2. Toothbrush (Bogobrush)
3. Water bottle (Klean Kanteen)
4. Granola bar
5. Orange and apples
6. Handmade note cards
For more information about the homeless demographic, we love what National Coalition for the Homeless to say here.