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November 15, 2022

Homeless Care Packages / National Homelessness Awareness Month / Good Causes PART 8


November is National Homelessness Awareness Month


From November 12 - 20, it is Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week.


From Carpenter's Shelter's Website: Every year, hundreds of thousands of American families become homeless, including more than 1.6 million children.

For more details on homelessness check out: State of Homelessness: 2021 Edition, which does not account for the impact of COVID.


This year, I started to put together care packages for local homeless people.

From April 2022 to November 2022 I’ve handed out 11 care packages.

I was inspired to start doing this during my mom’s second hospitalization in April, in which she was in the hospital for nine days. She was at a hospital a bit farther from home that was located in an area where there are more homeless people. Many times I’d see homeless people at one specific intersection. One frequent visitor to that spot was a person with a prosthetic limb who I always wanted to help, but I’d never have cash on me. Or any money to spare in the bank.

I had recently finished reading Period Power by Nadia Okamoto. In the book she talks about the need for homeless people to have access to menstrual products like pads and tampons, how most shelters don't carry any in stock for those who’d need them, how menstruaters often don't bother to ask for pads or tampons out of shame for needing them, and the dangers if homeless or poor menstruaters don’t have menstrual products, like toxic shock syndrome from using a tampon (or pad) longer than is safe. 

NOTE: I discuss the book Period Power more, and other books like it, in this blog post: Body Literacy Book Recommendations

Seeing all the local homeless people after reading Period Power, and while my mom was in the hospital and I felt pretty powerless, gave me the idea to put together care packages for homeless people with whatever I already had on hand.

So, after driving home one night to get some sleep, before returning to the hospital early the next morning, I created a care package with pads and one with out. And everything was already right there in my home that I could spare (yes, even the pads because I now use reusable pads, which I highly recommend), even though I really didn't have much.

What’s funny is that the days after that, when I had care packages to give, all a sudden no one showed up at that intersection when I drove post, morning and evening, for several days. Then…wouldn’t you know it? The day my mom was discharged, the person with a prosthetic limb was there. I was able to deliver the care package while bringing my mom home. She'd seen this person a few times before when we were on the way to her radiation treatments, and she loved being a part of that brief moment.


The first care package I made and gave:

Content:

1 large roll of toilet paper

1 bottled water

I can of ginger ale

1 can of tuna

1 can of Vienna sausages

1 Pop-tart

1 cheese crackers snack

1 toothbrush*

1 mouth moisturizer*

1 small toothpaste*


Since then, I’ve continued to put together more care packages like these. All the items in them I’d already had at home or from my stash of hospital supplies from my mom’s hospitalizations (marked with a single asterisk).

The bucket of supplies I’m talking about.

SIDE NOTE: Nurses encourage you to take whatever is in your hospital room. I was even told once that they’ll just throw it out, so if you or a loved one are ever in the hospital, although I pray not, take whatever supplies they put in a bucket or by your bedside. I’ve even been encouraged to take left over bandages and stuff that they brought in for my mom and ended up not using. They even throw out the leftover toilet paper in the bathroom. You can use these items at home or put them into care packages.

 

Like these that I also gave out:

Content:

1 bottled water

1 peach soda

1 container of dry roasted peanuts

1 small toilet paper

1 mouthwash*

1 no-rinse foam cleanser*


Content:

1 bottled water

1 can of chicken noodle soup

1 small toilet paper

1 fruit and grain bar

1 bug repellent bracelet

1 deck of unopened playing cards 

1 package of full-body washcloths*

1 mouthwash*

Handful of peppermint candies


After my mom was discharged from yet another 12-day-long hospitalization in May, we went through all of her clothes. Shirts that were badly stained were put into the rag pile for cleaning, nice or fancy clothes were put into a bag for Goodwill. (I’ve also donated to thrift stores that specifically cater to those who need assistance, where they don’t have to pay for the items they need. More on that later.) And the rest went into care packages.

We also found two knitted hats and two knitted scarves my mom no longer wanted and never used, as well as a stack of unused knitted washcloths. All of which she’d handmade.

Two scarves and two hats.
Otis looks like he doesn’t want to give them up. LOL
Photo by Chrys Fey

SIDENOTE: If you’re wondering why I didn’t go through my own clothes at the time, it’s because I go through my clothes, books, and other possessions a few times a year to donate what I don’t use/wear, and I’d already done that at that time.


Every month I donate to a cause or charity or organization that I support. For July I decided to use that money to buy more items for care packages. I could only spare $20.00 that month, but I know how to make money stretch. 

Why not just give that $20.00 to a homeless person?

People have many different answers to that question that I won’t get into, but I chose to use that money for care package items because with one twenty-dollar-bill I’m able to help many people.

For example: a 24-case of bottled water could be handed out to 24 people if given one bottle each, or 12 people if given two bottles each. Sure, a bottle or two won’t last long, but on a hot summer day in Florida, it could save someone from dehydration. And they can refill it using faucets and water fountains to ensure they always have water.

I’m also able to provide a lot more in a care package than water, though, and if someone gets those necessary items (like for personal hygiene) from me, then they won’t have to use money they get from other generous people to buy them. They then have more money for food, to save for rent, etc.

Besides, ANYTHING helps. I have needed handouts in the past and was always grateful for what I received (as long as it hadn't expired).

Whenever I give a care package, the recipient is grateful, too, before they even see what’s inside it. And, if it's not obvious, I am financially unable to give money. These care packages are affordable, and I enjoy doing it; both putting them together and handing them out. What goes into them takes more thought as to what someone may need, which I think is another plus of care packages. They’re thoughtful AND helpful.


This is what I bought with $20 from Walmart: 

24-pack of bottled water

8-pack of soap bars

6-pack of toothbrushes

3 tubes of large toothpaste

3 rain ponchos

Box of bandages

Bag of cough drops

24-pack of granola bars

1 box of Ziploc sandwich bags to hold supplies


I ended up taking two care packages I had made with pads that I hadn’t handed out yet and created this large care package for a young person in need who I’d seen outside my local library several times. I was able to give it to her on Election Day. ❤️

Here it is:

Content:

2 bottled waters

1 tomato sipping soup

3 granola bars

12 regular pads

4 overnight pads

2 Baggies of pantyliners + 2 wipettes

1 bar of soap

2 knitted washcloths

1 roll on deodorant*

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 toothbrush

1 full-size toothpaste

1 travel-size shampoo*

1 travel-size facial cleanser*

1 travel-size facial moisturizer with SPF*

1 scarf my mom knitted

1 knitted hat

1 hair clip

1 full-body white bath towel*

(All inside a reusable bag.)


More care packages I’ve handed out:


Content:

2 bottled waters 

3 granola bars

6 regular pads

2 overnight pads

1 Baggies of pantyliners

1 bar of soap

2 knitted washcloths

1 roll on deodorant*

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 toothbrush

1 full-size toothpaste

1 soothing hand cream*

2 travel-size wash & shampoo*

1 T-shirt with quarter sleeves

1 scarf my mom knitted

1 hair clip

1 full-body white bath towel*


Content:

2 bottled waters

3 granola bars

1 rain poncho

1 full-size toothpaste 

1 toothbrush

1 bar of soap

1 knitted washcloth

1 travel-size body lotion*

12 bandages

10 cough drops

1 pair of yellow socks with grips*


Content:

2 bottled waters

3 granola bars

1 rain poncho

1 toothbrush

1 travel-size toothpaste*

10 peppermint candies

1 bar of soap

1 knitted washcloth

12 bandages

10 cough drops

2 lightweight T-shirts that could be gender neutral 


Content:

2 bottled waters

3 granola bars

1 rain poncho

1 no-rinse foam cleanser*

1 package of full-body washcloths*

1 toothbrush

1 travel-size mouthwash*

10 peppermint candies

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 travel-size deodorant*

12 bandages

2 white washcloths*

1 gender neutral T-shirt


Content:

2 bottled waters

3 granola bars

1 toothbrush

2 travel-size toothpaste*

10 peppermint candies

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 travel-size deodorant*

1 travel-size Johnson’s wash and shampoo*

6 bandages

2 white washcloths*

1 pair of yellow socks with grips*




Content:

2 bottled waters

3 granola bars

1 package of full-body washcloths*

1 bar of soap

1 white washcloth*

1 travel-size mouthwash*

1 travel-size deodorant*

1 travel-size body lotion*

6 bandages

10 cough drops

1 full-body white bath towel* 


After seeing how many homeless people there are locally, I now keep two care packages in my car at all times. One always has menstrual pads in it.

I have these ready to go:



Content:

2 bottled waters

2 granola bars

1 package of full-body washcloths*

1 bar of soap

1 knitted washcloth

1 travel-size mouthwash*

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 pair of yellow socks with grips*

1 knitted hat

1 scarf my mom knitted

1 white blanket*



Content:

2 bottled waters

1 can of black cherry soda

1 can of honey roasted peanuts (hopefully not allergic)

6 regular pads

2 overnight pads

1 Baggies of pantyliners

1 package of full-body washcloths*

1 toothbrush*

1 travel-size toothpaste*

1 travel-size deodorant*

1 travel-size body lotion*

1 travel-size wash & shampoo*

1 packet of facial cleansing tissues*

1 nail file*

1 T-shirt with quarter sleeves

1 pair of purple scrub pants

(All inside a reusable bag.)


*Items marked with a single asterisk were from hospital supplies I’d collected or free samples given to me. 

And I still have some supplies left over after making these bags.


NOTE: I put more in the care packages specifically made for women and menstruaters because they have more personal hygiene needs. But I made more care packages for men or that can be gender neutral because I hand out those more frequently. Statistically, men are more likely to be homeless than women.


Have I inspired you to give care packages to those in need in your area?


If so, here’s a list of items you can add to care packages:

socks**

menstrual pads**

bottled water 

reusable water bottles

bandages

cough drops

mints/gum

chewable multivitamins

toothbrush

toothpaste

non-alcoholic mouthwash

hair brush/comb

shampoo

conditioner

compact mirror 

soap bars

body wash

washcloths

towel

deodorant 

sunscreen

lotion

hand sanitizer

bug spray

Chapstick

toilet paper

tissues

wet wipes 

flashlight

hand warmers

gloves

baseball cap/knitted hat

scarves

umbrella 

rain poncho

tarp

quarters for laundry mat

stamps

anything that’s non-perishable

anything that’s for personal hygiene, including condoms

pretty much all the things we take for granted and use on a regular basis


**I read that socks and menstrual pads are the most coveted items.

TIP: If you donate socks, though, this is the one time when used is not acceptable (and in case it has to be said…no used underwear, either).

Don’t worry if you give something that someone may not want or need, they can often trade it with someone else for something they do want/need, so it will go to use either way.

I’ve also read that giving a homeless person toilet paper or soap is pointless because they can get both from store bathrooms and shelters, but, as someone who experienced poverty, I know how nice it is to have your own. They can also use toilet paper for many purposes (as tissues, facial wipes, napkins, etc.).


TIPS:

- consider soft snacks as they’re easier to eat if someone has dental problems

- put anything that can melt or leak in a Ziploc bag

- put all items in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, double plastic bags (this is what I’ve done since I have way too many plastic bags…sorry, environment), a gently-used purse, backpack, or plastic shoe box container

- don’t give anything that is opened and used, not including clean, used clothes that look presentable

(I made an exception with the toothbrushes since I bought a six-pack. I put the clean, un-used toothbrushes in Ziploc bags. Same with the cough drops, which I also put in a Ziploc bag. Sometimes you have to improvise.)

- don’t give gift cards as they may not be able to get to that store

- don’t give anything expensive as it may put them in danger and cause them to get beaten up


Other Ways To Give To Those In Need:


Menstrual Packs:

You can make menstrual packs with disposable pads, reusable pads, toilet paper, wet wipes, etc. and donate them to women’s shelters for the volunteers to hand out to the people they assist. First, check ahead of time if this is a gift they’ll accept. This is something I’d like to do, but I’d need a lot more pads…and a lot more money to buy them. In Period Power, Nadia Okamoto talks about holding a drive to collect products to donate.


Food Pantries:

When the Boy Scouts didn’t come around last November, I donated several bags of food to a local food pantry where I’d gotten free food several times. 

Go through your pantry for anything you bought at one time but haven’t eaten yet and probably won’t, or that’ll be easy for you to replace.

You can even go to the store with $20.00 and buy canned goods specifically to donate.

TIP: Make sure, though, to check the expiration date of any food in your pantry before you donate it. If it has expired, do NOT donate it.

 

RANT FORTHCOMING: I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to get food from a pantry, or even a well-meaning neighbor, that expired a year or more before. It happened to me many times. The first time, it was with an expired box of macaroni and cheese. I made it. I ate a spoonful. I swallowed. I grimaced. It tasted horrible. I looked at the box; it had expired.

After that, if I went to a food pantry, I checked all expiration dates when I got home. Rather than risk eating it (not only could it taste bad but it could also make you sick), I was forced to throw it out. Once, I had to dispose of half of what I was given. No, I would not donate it back, and, no, throwing it out was not wasting it. It was already expired and I would not subject someone else to what I’d once experienced, or worse.

Unfortunately, expired food is given to those in need a lot, and not because it was sitting on food pantry shelves for months or years, since that food goes quickly and is always in high demand.

All I can think is that maybe people donate expired food because 1) they don’t remember/bother to look or 2) they believe that anyone getting food from a free food pantry will be grateful for whatever they get, but if you wouldn’t eat something that’s expired, no one else should/would, either.

Donating expired food is inconsiderate and can make the people receiving it feel as though you think they’re not good enough for unexpired food, or that they're only worth expired food.

Donating expired food is not helpful or generous or selfless. Period. So make sure to check!


Help Shelters:

If you’d like to donate in bulk to local shelters, check their websites for a list of high-demand items they’re seeking donations for.


Thrift Stores:

You can also do an Internet search for thrift stores that are specifically for homeless and low-income people. Next time you have gently-used clothes, kitchen supplies, furniture, books, etc. consider donating to one of those thrift stores rather than Goodwill, which has rather high price tags.

For instance, in Brevard County, Florida there’s South Brevard Sharing Center, where I’d donated bags of nice clothing (even fancy tops and slacks that could be worn to job interviews, which is crucial for those who are in a tough spot and looking for a job) earlier this year.

From South Brevard Sharing Center’s website: “a thrift store that clients can receive clothing and household items at no charge as needed…” 


QUESTIONS: Have you ever made or handed out care packages to homeless people or menstruating people? Do you want to now? This could be a fun project to do with your kids/family/friends by hosting a care package assembling party or even a drive to get supplies.

Have you given to people in need in any of the other ways mentioned in this post? Or ways not mentioned here? Tell me about it!


Good Causes:

Causes and Donations - Books, Animals, and People / PART 1

Good Causes to Support / PART 2

I Donated My Hair / Good Causes PART 3

Stand Up To Cancer, Protect Trans Youth, Stand With Ukraine / PART 4

World Elephant Day / Good Causes PART 5

My Favorite Nature Documentaries + Good Causes PART 6

Lung Cancer Awareness Month (PART 7)





11 comments:

  1. That's awesome that you are donating care packages. Here, more people are going to food banks too, and I've been upping my donations to local ones.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Natalie, food banks are a great way to give back through donations and even volunteering. 🙂

    ReplyDelete
  3. Agreed about not donating food that’s past the expiration/use by date—but bear in mind for one’s own use that those dates are typically a very conservative date for when flavor may start to decline (obvious exception for meat/dairy, though milk may remain perfectly good past the pull date and you can do an easy sniff test to see). So if a box or can expired last month, go ahead and use it—just check for any bulge or the like in a can.

    To avoid wasting food, rotate your pantry supplies so you use the oldest first. And maybe from time to time look at dates. If a can or box of stuff is within a month or two and you don’t have a plan to use it, that might be a good time to donate. I suspect what often happens is people see that they have stuff they haven’t used in a while or aren’t sure why they bought it, and they donate it, with or without checking dates.

    When I worked at the library we held a food drive every Christmas (as well as our “food for fines” program—one can could get your fines erased, however much you owed). We got, sadly, a lot of outdated food, and had to start checking it when it was given.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, the unhoused population has exploded as of late. Some great tips here.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's so sweet of you to donate care packages :) Inspiring post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Liz, it’s true. I never used to see homeless people so close to home before, only in one area that was a bit of a drive because there’s a shelter close by, but now there’s so many. It’s truly a crisis.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Rebecca, yes, a month past expiration date for boxed/canned goods in someone’s own pantry is safe and can be consumed at home. Great tip on rotating home pantry items and checking expiration dates to figure out what you’d want to use or donate before it’s too late. I’ve been doing that lately because I’d had a small stock of canned goods.

    That’s great that the library hosted a good drive, but awful that so much had been past their expiration. Food pantries and drives checking at the time of donation is smart.

    Thank you for your comment on expiration dates and the advice for others looking to donate nonperishable food.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I didn't know about the Sharing Center but am very glad to know now! I will definitely make it a point to donate to them in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Chrys - you're very inspiring - this is a marvellous blog post - full of so many wise ideas - thanks for them and then great to see what can be done for others. Fantastic - thank you ... Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good job, Chrys. Thanks for helping others. I haven't thought of women's special needs, but I have given out food and purchased food for homeless (but I don't give money). I also support food pantries. Often, they mostly need money because they can buy food for regional food banks at great savings.

    ReplyDelete

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