The United States has over 3.5 million homeless people, many of whom rely on shelters, pantries and other charitable organizations to meet their needs. If you’d like to make a donation of goods to such an organization but aren’t sure what to buy, here are some excellent ideas.
Many women who need help from a shelter have children with them. Battered women often flee abusive home situations with little more than their children and the clothes on their backs. Items such as pacifiers, diapers, clean clothing, bottles and wipes are always in short supply, as are comfort items like small toys, rattles and child-sized ‘blankies.’
Feminine Hygiene Products
For many homeless women, access to feminine hygiene products can be hit-or-miss. Pads and tampons are needed to avoid staining what little clothing a woman has, and can avoid a lot of embarrassment in public. Avoid items like menstrual cups that need to be boiled and sterilized each month, as some homeless may struggle to keep such items sanitary.
Sun Protection Items
The homeless are often exposed to the sun for hours a day, especially if they rely on panhandling in a city for income. Gifting hats, sunglasses and sunblock can avoid painful burns, sunstroke and skin cancer. A sample size sunscreen bulk purchase can be parceled out as-needed by shelters and pantries to meet the need. Cheap bandannas can also work to keep the sun off the neck.
Oral Hygiene Products
Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss are necessary to avoid gum disease and tooth decay, yet many homeless try to do without. These items can be bought in bulk and them portioned out into baggies for distribution. Go for travel-size items, as some homeless are forced to carry everything they own on their back.
Many shelters offer hot showers, but keeping a constant supply of soap, shampoo and conditioner on hand can be a challenge. Trail-size items can be bought in bulk, and some shelters dispense these showering supplies from huge gallon-sized tubs into a disposable cup for each person. Find out how your local shelter operates and make your gift according to their practices.
The needs of the homeless do not diminish after the holiday season. The harsh summer heat presents unique challenges to those living without a permanent residence. By gifting these types of items to a shelter or pantry near you, you can help the less-fortunate stay healthy and safe.