The weather is getting colder and it’s easy to take your warm home and winter gear for granted. There are so many people who are homeless that have to brave the elements without shelter, appropriate clothing, and even food.
Photos in this post by Sergio Omassi at Pexels
If you are like me, you see these people on the street, cold and hungry and your heart just breaks, however, and maybe you will agree with me, I am not a big fan of giving them cash. There are a few reasons for this. The first one being that even if I only gave a dollar to each one I saw, I would be broke. The second, (and most important one to me) is that I have no idea what they are going to spend it on. I would love to believe that they will go to the nearest market and buy a meal, or put it together with other donations and try to secure a warm place to sleep for the night, and a hot bath. Sadly though, this is rarely the case. I don’t want my hard earned money to go toward self-destruction, I want to help them survive.
Here are some ways I have come up with to help, without compromising my values or breaking my bank. I hope you find it inspirational and find some ways that you too can help some of the less fortunate people you encounter during this harsh time of year.
- Host a potluck dinner where the potluck is a goods donation. It’s probably fair to assume that you will have some friends over at some point, and there will be food. It doesn’t matter if you usually make a meal and people bring sides, or if it is as simple as ordering a couple of pizzas and splitting the bill, this is a really great way to collect stuff to give to people that need it. Instead of having your friends bring over a dish to share, or putting money toward the food bill, YOU take care of the food and ask them to bring in a new item to donate to the needy. Examples of things to bring are blankets, hats, gloves, toiletries, etc. You will be able to find many organizations that will take these types of donations including churches, homeless shelters, group homes, and more, just make some calls in your area and see who takes in donations, and what is needed.
- Donate your time. With the holidays coming up, many shelters, churches, and other organizations are busy organizing large meals for the homeless for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is always somewhere that would be glad of your help. There are volunteer positions for cooks, servers, and cleanup. Call around to your local churches and shelters to see if they need help!
- Hit the streets with a warmup and a smile. Make a pot of coffee, put it in a large thermos, bake some biscuits or cookies, bundle up, grab some cheap styrofoam cups, and hit the pavement. Go for a walk in an area where there are a lot of homeless people (parks, shopping districts, etc) and when you see a person that looks chilly, hand them a warm cup of coffee, a snack and a warm hello. You will get some fresh air and exercise, and you just may be making someone else’s day a little better while you are at it! You could even designate a morning each week where you do this at a specific time, and make it a part of your fitness regimen.
- Put together small boost packages to keep with you for people in need. Take a gallon freezer bag, and put in a warm pair of socks, a teabag, a pair of winter gloves, a stocking cap, a protein bar, and handwarmer packets. Then write a little note with something inspirational or uplifting on it and add that as well. Keep a few of these in your car or tote bag and when you see someone that looks like they need it, hand it off to them. Replace them as necessary and you will always be prepared to help out a human in need. These items can be found for around a dollar each, so these are not expensive to put together, and what’s inside could really help someone who is without shelter.
- Getting ready to donate your old winter coat or blankets to the Charity shop? Give them to the homeless instead. Remember that park or district in your city where you handed out coffee? Go back there with your old (clean) blankets and coats and hand them out. These people need them NOW whereas your local thrift shop is only going to put them on racks to sell to people. Don’t get me wrong, charity shops are doing great work, but your used coats and blankets could help someone more immediately if you eliminate the middle man and give them straight to a person who needs it.
A few things to remember. BE SAFE. If you decide to go out to hand things around to your local homeless community, be mindful of the area you will be in, and what time of day it is. These activities are best done in the morning, or early afternoon, when there is plenty of traffic and light. If possible, TAKE ALONG A FRIEND and use the buddy system. Helping people is important, but your safety comes first. DO NOT carry cash or valuables on you. I avoid carrying a purse at all and only carry identification in a pocket, and I remove jewelry and other valuables from my person. Consider carrying pepper spray on you in case you get into a bad situation, and keep your phone concealed, but in a place where you can get to it easily.
Stay warm this winter, and remember, even if you can’t help them warm their body this holiday season, you can warm their hearts a bit. A kind word or a warm smile can make someone’s day even in the depths of winter!
Do you have any special ways that you pay it forward during the holiday season or any other time of year? I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading!