Thousands of people pass homeless men and women on the roadside each day who are begging for money, but many are wary of simply giving cash for fear of enabling detrimental activities such as alcohol or drugs. Since the intense physical and psychological pressures of homelessness do drive many towards a reprieve in numbing substance, it is wise to be cautious of giving money, but this is not an excuse to do nothing; by simply planning ahead there are many viable options for those who still wish to help without giving cash.
After spending a fair amount of time with homeless men and women in various cities and situations around the country, my wife and I have come up a list of some alternative ideas to gather and stock in the car so we are ready when the time comes. Here are a few to consider:
If you live in a city with a substantial bus system, a couple of bus tickets will go a long way. This will allow them to travel to different locations where food or shelter may be available that they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise, or simply save them from a day walking.
These are easy to buy in bulk, have many good nutrients, and can be especially filling if you find some with more protein. Peanut butter tends to help the body stay warm, so shop accordingly during the winter season.
One of the unique aspects of being homeless that is rarely considered is that the person’s entire possession must be portable. Many use old grocery bags or have been using the same bag for many years. A nice new (or slightly used) fabric bag or “sling-bag” can be especially useful.
Larger coats, hats, gloves, and scarves are invaluable to the homeless – especially in the colder seasons. Since many only have one set of clothes, simply having something warm and dry to put on during a rainy day is extremely beneficial both for health and psychological reasons. Instead of making your next clothing giveaway to the local Goodwill, throw a few things in your trunk to carry around just in case.
A sure-fire way to make sure money is used for its intended purpose is a simple $5 gift card to a local fast-food place. This is enough money for a full meal (or two) and allows them to spend time in the warm building.
All these are relatively easy items to acquire and simply take a small amount of time to stock a few in your car- if you don’t do this beforehand, you will likely just skip the opportunity when it comes. By taking a few moments to put some helpful items in your car, you can be a blessing to many people who may be in need, without having to worry about how they are being used.