This is a list of material possessions homeless people need to survive. Sure, there are many things that homeless people need that have nothing to do with material possessions, but I'll write about that another time.
I will mention this, though. Sure, giving away your hand-me-downs is easy. These things you were not using or were going to throw away anyways can be used by homeless people. But know that looking like a homeless person wearing someones discarded items has a negative psychological effect on homeless people that can worsen and extend their homeless experience. Critical to a homeless person's recovery from homelessness is a feeling of worth, and dignity. Being able to wear decent clothing, being able to not look like a homeless person, provides many benefits for homeless people.
- Coats - with hoods is a bonus. Hoods help keep the wind and rain off, and the warmth in.
- Socks - Homeless people go through socks fast. Homelessness is tough on feet, and keeping feet healthy is difficult in the homeless environment.
- Blankets - especially for the homeless who won't or can't get into a shelter. Still, some shelters have little in the way of blankets and so the homeless are allowed to use their own as well.
- Backpacks - they wear out fast with daily use. Now, I'm not much for making endorsements of products, but time after time I've learned that JanSport backpacks are by far the best of the lesser expensive backpacks. They hold up very well.
- Toiletries - toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, comb or brush, fingernail clippers, soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, tissues, aspirin, lotion, chapstick, etc
- Knit Caps - in natural colors please. Sure, a florescent pink cap with fuzzy knobs may look cute on a coed, but not on your average homeless guy.
- Tents - more and more homeless people are sleeping outside, and good inexpensive tents can be found, if you don't already have one you don't use. Walmart usually has a good selection at a good price.
- Rain Ponchos - They work better than umbrellas because they can cover a backpack and other carried things. It may be tempting to buy and pass out cheap ponchos, but know that the will be worn often in rainy snowy climates and the cheaper stuff will wear out and tear after only a few uses.
- Bus Passes - or bus tokens are easy to get from your local transit authority.