Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What Do Homeless People Need?

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.

17 comments:

  1. I would add a small flashlight, shoes, and for a treat, a burn cell phone. Oh, and nail clippers or small swiss army knife that includes a file.

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  2. This may be a stupid question, but where would someone take these items if they wanted to help out?

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  3. Take them anywhere that homeless people are. And really, homeless people can be anywhere. Of course you can contact your local homeless shelter, or if you'd rather be more involved, you can take them to the homeless yourself. Just do so safely. Just like meeting anyone for the first time that you don't know, do so in a public place.

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  4. Interesting list. Quick story, I was talking with a homeless guy yesterday and one thing I like to do is ask what do you need. (Because I hate thinking that I'm helping but in reality, there is something more effective I could be doing.) And one of the things that he said was bus passes. It never occurred to me. And low and behold I read your list and what do I find, bus passes! It is now confirmed and bus passes are now on my mental list of things that are "really needed".
    I am very interested to hear what you have to say as far as non-material possessions.

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    1. I find that the only exception to this are the few places with free transit. Im located in Fayetteville AR and they do have a free transit

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  5. How about letting them sleep in your garage
    when its freezing cold outside? Many people treat their dogs better than a homeless person!
    How does a christian person pray to God when they treat homeless people as Non-Humans?
    Please explain this to me!

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    1. There are many reasons for NOT having homeless persons in one's garage...especially those long term homeless who also happen to be alcoholics or heavy drug users (meth/etc).

      Your dog would not rape your teenage daughter or wife when under the influence of drugs and alcohol. And even if you have a homeless woman for a guest...many of her friends could be homeless men with substance abuse issues..and they will come around to see her.

      A former roommate of mine who was usually a nice guy with but who would go out periodically to the streets (hotel) to use crank (methamphetamine) said that I would not want to meet him when he is out using....cause he is NOT a nice person at all during those times...and could be quite dangerous.

      So while there is much that a Christian person can do to help homeless people...having them in your home or garage seems quite risky.

      I agree that homeless people need to be treated with dignity like anyone else, and that Christians should be doing more than they are to spend time helping the homeless...I just have a problem with the idea of housing homeless in the garage (or in my case...guestroom since we our garage was converted to MBR) for the reason mentioned above.

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    2. yep, In doing anything with ANY PERSON homeless or not, it's best to make sure you know them well enough to trust them.

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    3. NOT EVERY HOMELESS PERSON IS A DRUG ADDICT OR ALCOHOLIC WHEN ARE WE GOING TO PASS THIS STEREOTYPE??

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    4. I agree with you!! Matthew 25:34-36 tells us we are to feed, give drink, shelter, clothe, and visit the less fortunate, helpless, homeless, and the shut ins. Now, you don't HAVE to do this to be a Christian. BUT, when you are a TRUE Christian, you want to live as complete Biblical life as possible. This includes lending a helping hand where needed. In those scriptures God tells us that when we do this for the least of these, we are doing this for Him. Yes, I think you should be wise and you can't put your family in danger. My suggestion is if you see a homeless person, give them what you can for now. Then find out it your community has a local shelter and then you can take the homeless person there or inform the shelter of the whereabouts and see if the shelter has a way of transporting them to the shelter. I am a Christian myself, have been for appx 4 yrs now. I am not rich by no means. I take care of a family of four on my income.I cannot physically financially help others, but I have been blessed with the opportunity to open a soup kitchen in my town. Right now, it's only a soup kitchen, but with God's guidance it will become so much more.

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    5. Just as important as knowing a homeless person before giving something to him/her, it is also good to know about the shelters in your area. Don't just assume that all shelters are good shelters. Most cities these days have more than one facility for the homeless. Find out which shelter is best for the homeless person you are trying to help.

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  6. I have to admit that the biggest need for me is laundry. I have at least four bags of clothes now in y storage locker. I hate getting even more clothes as it's just a waste. Keeping laundry up to date for me is the biggest hurdle. Last time I got $20, it all went to laundry.

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  7. My Church has a Food Pantry so when someone comes to the Church and askes for help we take them to our Pantry and let them "shop". The groceries and toiletries come from our Church members. We just announce what we are low on and members donate it. I also make Comfort Bags which have alot of the items you listed but now I know what to add. Thanks.

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  8. I keep gallon sized Ziplock bags in my car with a water bottle, snacks (peanut butter crackers, beef jerky sticks, Snackwell cookies, etc..), baby wipes, tooth brush & paste, deodorant.... I have them on hand to give when I come across a need.

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