April 19, 2014

Care Packages for the Homeless: Way to Help the Homeless

Jan10

Nationwide, temperatures have been frigid. Ice courses through the bones.

And while I tucking my children into bed, years of route “courtesy prayers” are spouted…

“Lord, thank you for our yummy dinner tonight. Thank you for our house during the cold winter…please may we have sweet dreams…”
Route, ritualistic prayers…until this week.

This week, their prayers became more intimate. The media’s perception of homelessness bore a face, and our children understood that not everyone has a warm house or snuggly bed in which to slumber.

This week, they prayed for their new, special friends which have captured a piece of their heart.  They prayed for Miss Yung, who wouldn’t go to a shelter…

They prayed for her bones, that warmth would be radiated through the freezing tent, and that she would make it another night. Our girls woke up asking when they could see her and give her a big hug.

Asking what our role as a family would be to this strange, curious, and often overlooked subculture…we prayed.

How could we help the homeless?

It’s one thing to do a courtesy round of meals at the shelters during the holidays, but lives are changed when duty melds to decision.

An active, intentional decision to get off the sidelines and into the game. The game of life where everyone has a vital role.

So, we are asking tough questions in this home.

Will you join us?

Attacking any societal issue feels overwhelming. The scope and magnitude is never ending.

Almost daily, we pass homeless men panhandling on the corner, and yet I tell the kids we don’t give money for fear it will go towards alcohol.

And yet, is it my responsibility to give regardless? How can one person or family make a difference?

“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”

Isaiah 58:10

Let’s be the hands and feet…

One tangible , family service project in helping the homeless is to put together care packages and keep them in your car. When you see someone in need, you have something you can give them immediately to meet some minor needs.

What we included in our care packages:

  1. Hand warmers
  2. Snacks
  3. Wet Wipes
  4. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  5. Water bottle
  6. Mints/gum
  7. Kleenex
  8. Chapstick
  9. Note/bible verse

(Commentors are giving additional suggestions – socks, gloves (Dollar Store has great ones), first aid kits, pillar candles, cough drops, pain medicine…)

We’re developing relationship with special, new friends at an area homeless camp.

Hearing their stories is life changing.

Statistically, it is said that many Americans are only two months away from being homeless…


Comments

  1. Wow! Wow! I just love this idea. There are so many times I want to help but am afraid they will use the money to purchase something other than food.

    thanks for the inspiration!

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  2. From some people at my parents’ church who have built relationships with the homeless and are working to help them, I have learned that socks, underwear and pillar candles are also great things to include. The socks can even be used as the “packaging” for the care package, putting things down inside and tying the two socks together. A pillar candle can heat a tent 10 degrees warmer. Kelly

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  3. Jen, What a wonderful ministry. I just connected with our Nashville campus for human development that works with the homeless this week. They said their top needs are hand warmers, toothbrushes, pain medicines, thermal underwear, and cough drops.

    I will definitely be making care packages using these things.

    Thank you for your incredible ministry through Beauty and Bedlam!

    Jessie

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  4. This is such a fantastic idea. I often pass the homeless on my way home. I’m not in a position to help them financially but I try to pick up a few extra food items or health/hygiene items when I can. What a nice way to share them!

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  5. Gosh Jen, what a great message. I have been thinking about that and ‘dismissed’ myself w/ the excuse that I’m in AZ where it’s warm. Truth is, there are plenty of homeless in AZ that are still in need. I am touched and feeling inclined to do something tomorrow. We are so blessed aren’t we? I can’t imagine…

    So the reason I was popping on over was to say I’m doing another (RED) Meatless Monday tomorrow, loved that you saved me last week. I accidentally erased the Mr. Linky so we’ll see if I can get it back up. :(
    Anyway, I gave you another shout out…not that you need it, but if you have anything you’d like to link up tomorrow that would be stellar. :) Hope to see you at Blissdom, I’m working on it.

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  6. Oh great! I had some care packages that I kept in my car this summer but adding the hand warmers is a great idea!

    Now I just need to update the packages.

    Thannks for the great idea

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  7. Beautiful. Thank you for the practical ideas we all can do.

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  8. I ditto socks (moreso than underwear because there’s no size-guessing involved) – they wear them to death. It’s not even something they can get second-hand because most of us wear our socks until they’re unwearable. I help people who aren’t homeless but still can’t make it without charity, and they all need socks. A 9-year-old with no socks and a 5-year-old with two mismatched crumbly boy’s socks with no elasticity left on a 17-degree day had me ordering 12pr-packs on Amazon for $5 within hours of discovering this.

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  9. This is a great idea. Honestly there is not a lot of visible homelessness in my small town but I do know a group that this would help here. Thank you.

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  10. Lynne in NC says:

    Jen~ wow this is definitely putting hands and feet on the gospel.
    Thanks so much for sharing and for the gentle nudge, too.
    Peace.

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  11. Dollar tree has gloves and hats as well that could be thrown in

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  12. What a wonderful heartfelt way to give back! You’re fantastic!

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  13. Jen, this is a wonderful thought provoking post.
    Every winter…around Christmas time I am a little sad. Not because I can’t be with my extended family…sure, I miss them, but I think of all the homeless people as the weather gets colder. How some of them don’t have a warm place to stay or anything to eat.
    Usually when I see someone that is homeless when I am driving I pray for them. I pray that they would find warm shelter and food to eat.
    I love your idea of the little kit that you put together; having it ready to go in the car to be the hands and feet of God.
    I hope you don’t mind if I post a link at my blog for people to hop on over here and read your post.
    Blessings to you,
    Cheryl

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  14. wow..what a fantastic idea. Thanks!

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  15. I’ve often thought of doing this…and never have. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I think God used you to speak to me this morning. Just yesterday I was in a discussion relating to homeless people and felt sort of prompted to help them. And now this.

    I’m like Fifth Street Mama- there are not a lot of visible homeless people in our city. But I know they are out there and now I am prompted to go see if we can find them.

    Thanks Jen!

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  16. I loved this post! I am currently reading “Same Kind of Different as Me”. You should read it! It is a fantastic true story and it deals with the issue of homelessness. Thanks for this great idea!!!!!!!

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  17. THANK YOU for this post. This is actually something we have done in the past and I have a stash of stuff in the basement waiting to be assembled into more packages! I’m so glad that you’re getting the word out about this great way to minister to the least of these.

    One thing I like to include is a short note and the address/contact information for the local Christian homeless shelter where they can turn for more ongoing help. I also am planning to include printed booklets of a “Bible in a nutshell” overview that I wrote a while back – it presents the gospel from the bigger picture of Genesis through Revelation: http://www.krististephens.com/2009/09/gods-big-story.html

    And, when we have extra gideon Bibles tucked away different places (we surely don’t need them), I like to add those, as well.

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  18. You are such an inspiration. I love this idea.

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  19. Our church school does this through a local food ministry a few times a year. I’d never thought to go one step farther and prepare some extras to have on hand ourselves. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

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  20. An excellent life lesson for your children. Bless you for helping others.

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  21. Hi Jen,
    I don’t think I have ever commented on your blog before, but I have been a faithful reader for a couple of years. :) This post is so timely for me…I just finished reading “The Same Kind of Different as Me” this morning (a Christmas gift to all of my siblings this Christmas from our parents — also recommended above in another comment). All I have to say is that it is life changing. It is a quick read – and I highly recommend it right now as you make these important decisions with your family. It sure has me thinking… God bless you!

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  22. My husband is good about giving bags of water, granola bars and shirts that would have gone to Goodwill…I never would have thought of that. Thanks for the reminder…we need to do it more.

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  23. Jen – LOVE this idea! Wondering how I can do this practically, in our small town. Not really any street corners for anyone to stand on; but realistically, I know there are homeless people in our community.

    Any ideas how we could go about finding out?

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  24. What a great way to serve.
    Thanks for sharing this idea with so many.
    Have you ever read the book The Same Kind of Different as Me? Powerful true story!

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  25. Hi Jen,
    First of all, I have to say how much I am LOVING your blog!!!!! I have stayed up two nights (later than I will admit, lol) to read almost ALL of it! There are SO many things we have in common that when I’m reading , I’m saying YES! I do that too, LOL! Your pantry challenge has me making tonights and tomorrow’s dinners out of the pantry and I haven’t been grocery shopping (besides milk, I have an 18 month old, plus twins who just turned 9) in close to 2 weeks! I’m definately going to be freezing milk now when I see it on sale! We do drink skim or 1% alot of the time, but the kids drink whole or 2%. And thrift stores? MY GOODNESS, my favorites and yard sales too! WOW, lol!
    Anyway, I digress! Our family has been doing “CHristmas for an orphan” for a few years now and I’m glad we started this because it made my children realize how MUCH they have and how others have nothing. We also donate constantly (clothes and food) to ministries that our church supports. My parents had their Christmas eve dinner catered and it was WAYYYYY too much for our party. We had full trays of food and we drove it down to our City Mission so our local homeless people could have a nice dinner as well. The feeling from helping people like that is such a GREAT feeling!
    I’ll end my novel here, but look forward to visiting more! Wish I was going to Blissdom to hear you speak!!! :)
    Kristi

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  26. This is a GREAT idea! We are going to do this! And I hope you don’t mind if I give you credit on my blog! Blessings!

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  27. This is the answer to the question searing my heart every time I see a homeless person! Thank you so much!

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  28. Thank you for being the voice of such an important issue. Homelessness (and hunger) is a subject that is particularly close to our hearts. We’ve had many homeless friends over the years — families, elderly couples and single young men and women. Some went from great wealth to great poverty through no real fault of their own. Others for one reason or another have chosen the life they lead.

    At one point, I lived in a home associated with our church that we opened up to homeless friends for extended stays. I always thought I would some how live a life of ministry to the homeless, but for now that is not where God has us exactly. At this time, we tend to partner with our local homeless shelter to assist. One time we had the opportunity to buy a few types of toiletries (toothpaste, soap and razors, if I remember right) for the men’s shelter for an entire year. You may want to also touch base with your local homeless shelter. They often have urgent needs that can be met the most economically with a cash donation as they have partners and vendors to which they have special access.

    The other greatest gift you can give a homeless person is a smile. All many wish is to simply not feel invisible or like an outcast. A smile and a “hello” from a stranger can change that.

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  29. That is a simply beautiful idea. Thanks for sharing, Jen!

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  30. This is one of my favorite posts from you Jen. I love the idea! Thanks girl.

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  31. Jen, I just LOVE this idea!! I am so excited to get some bags packed up and ready to hand out. What an excellent way to show our children how we can be more like Jesus.

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  32. I. Love. This!!!!! This is perfect for my 2010 resolution! Thanks so much for this post!!! If you’d like to see my post about Random Acts of Kindness, or Pay it Forward, check it out here: Click here

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  33. If you are near a military base or camping store MRE (meals ready to eat) are a great thing to keep in your car. They are high in calories, in some cases have built in heat sources and all the implements. We work with a local military base and get the MRE’s that are close to reaching expiration dates and pass them out to the homeless. Great post.

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    whitney Reply:

    @jeanette,
    Jeanette, I have a question for you…
    Is it legal to give out MRE’s to the homeless (or anyone who wants them) if the box has been opened as well as the meal package? Meaning, once the MRE’s have been rummaged through can the individually wrapped snacks and meals be donated? The reason I am asking is, once the Marines are issued their MRE’s they open the box, each individual gets so many MRE packages, and he opens them and takes out what he wants to eat while in the field… leaving 7/8 of the items behind to be thrown out… and these individuals have no incentive to save anything they don’t use because they are required to take home whatever they are issued and saving everything just stacks up and cannot be eaten. The huge waste is an issue for me and I would like to know if you knew how the donation process works, or if this stuff HAS to be thrown out because it cannot be given back to the Marine Corps. I couldn’t find anything about this online :/ and your help would be very much appreciated.

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    jeanette Reply:

    @whitney,

    I am certain the Marines can’t donate MRE’s. My husband used to work on base and saw hundreds of MRE’s being thrown away that were close to being expired. As an individual I am certain you could start a drive to collect so much of what is wasted. That is all it takes, one person to start it up.

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  34. Love your post – definitely makes you think – The idea is fabulous …thanks for posting.

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  35. Thanks for sharing this! This encourages me to want to do even more! My husband said he saw a man on the street the other day and just the sight of him made my husband cry. He gave the man a few dollars, that’s all he had. I will defiantly keep some care kits in our cars from now on.
    I have begun a 15 a month challenge on my blog. Each month I am going to donate at least 15 items to charity. This month I already have gotten over 30 items. I am so excited and can’t wait to see how much I can end up giving at the end of the month. Stop by and visit :)
    http://www.honoringtheking.com

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  36. What a neat idea, how great you are doing this.

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  37. I had an instructor last semester that said, “Sometimes we have to help the greedy in order to help the needy.” Your comment about not giving for fear of it going to alcohol is one I’ve had as well, but after hearing her say that, it changed my heart. It’s not my job to disqualify anyone from receiving what God wants to give through me. It’s just my job to obey. Sometimes it’s hard, but I still want to obey. Great post! So glad I stopped by today…my prayer today will be to ask the Lord how I can bless someone in my life.

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  38. so very inspiring…thank you…

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  39. I LOVE this!!! The sad fact is, we have been close to this ourselves the past few months. God has been faithful, and we are surviving both of our job losses. It’s sad that there are so many people in need in our nation. When we get back on our feet, I will surely do this! Thanks for the idea!

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  40. What a great idea. I love that you keep some in your car to hand out when needed.

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  41. I see from all that comments that this really struck a chord. How wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I linked to the post on my blog today when we thought about “Why care?” I think you gave so many practical ideas for how and why to care. See the post here: http://comehaveapeace.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-wednesday-care.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email and thank you for taking time to BE compassionate actively and to share it.

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  42. Thanks Jen. I have been faithfully following your blog for a while and have so enjoyed your posts. I have incorporated several of your ideas, this one being the most recent. I discussed this with our 5 kids and they were eager to make some bags. We had just been to the dollar store to pick up some items and then stopped at the post office where a homeless man asked for help. It was such a great immediate lesson for the kids. We hadn’t even gotten home to put our bags together, but we quickly gathered some of the things we had just purchased and gave them away with a blessing. Keep up the good work on your blog!

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    Jens Reply:

    @Jocelyn, Thank you so much for sharing that, Jocelyn….so often we say, “that’s a good idea” but then never follow through. You were obedient and look at how immediate your kids saw that…. :)

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  43. Inspiring, thank you for this. I just got done reading “A Same Kind of Different as Me” and it gave me a whole new perspective this issue.

    Stef
    Frugalhomeideas.blogspot.com

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  44. What did you put your items in?

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  45. I am very interested in doing this. Any ideas how the kids can be personally involved in giving and meeting the homeless? Great post!

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  46. Instead of snacks and gum (?), how about food with actual sustenance? These people have a poor diet to begin with and sugary goodness will rob the body of proper nutrients. In the winter especially they will need high calorie foods. If I may suggest peanut butter, nutrition bars (Clif Bars for bodybuilders, or anything equivalent), beef jerky, canned fruit with pop tabs, MREs, and whatever else one can think of. Just include a case of plastic silverware.

    Also shampoo/soap with towels, brush/combs, and LED flashlight (with batteries), and mylar blankets (commonly found in survival kits), and first aid kits.

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    Jen Reply:

    Those are great examples. Since some families choose to make anywhere from 50-100 of these, budget is also a consideration. If they could find someone to donate or if people have additional income to invest, those are excellent suggestions.

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  47. you are amazing!

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  48. What a fabulous idea. March is the month our church sets aside for just this, with a sock drive and nights set up to house the homeless in our area. We collect gently used towels & clothing, toiletries, etc. to give those in need, and provide food, conversation, and a warm place to sleep. Wonderful post.

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  49. Hi, I’ve been going to an underpass in a nearby city on Sunday mornings where the homeless gather, to hand out bags of toiletries to them. I do this for my church, and usually have other parishioners who join me. The problem is, sometimes there are homeless there who become somewhat “unruly” and rough. They take all the bags and do not let others get any. I try to get them to form a line, but it does not always work. I need a way to safely hand out the items to the homeless, especially if I have others with me who I am responsible for. Thanks.

    Ann

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  50. Hi! Not affiliated with this group but did stumble across this trying to get some additional info re: care paclages for a possible Girl Scout project our troop is considering. One thing I learned about that most people don’t think to include are s=women’s hygiene items (sanitary napkins, tampons, etc). Desperately needed and seldom donated – people just don’t think of it!

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  51. Kari Dozhier says:

    We’ve always wanted to do this. I’m going to get my kids involved in making these packages as part of our #26Acts (of kindess) in memory of the angels of Connecticut. Thank you so much!

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  52. Thankfulness to my father who told me about this blog, this website is
    truly remarkable.

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  53. I love this idea! I am going to do this with my kids. We have been praying for them lately with this extremely cold weather.
    Thanks for the great idea.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] this idea for helping the homeless.  Jen at Beauty and Bedlam posted last week how her family made care packages for the homeless.  I, too find myself not giving money to the homeless in fear they’ll use it for things [...]

  2. [...] that go more in-depth about this issue (google “homeless care packages”).  One I like is http://beautyandbedlam.com/homeless-carepackages/.  Check it out for more ideas of what you can include in your bags, scripture you can share with [...]

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