When I was in Religious Ed [the Catholic version of Sunday school, only it was on Monday nights and lasted way longer than a class on Sunday probably would have…] we would make little Blessing Bags for the homeless of San Diego during the holidays. We would fill brown paper bags with things our parents donated such as socks, some holiday candy, prayer cards, personal hygiene products, etc. We would make hundreds of these bags and then they would be shipped off to a shelter downtown for distribution. People I grew up with, from that same parish, would keep food and water bottles in their car to pass out to homeless they might see while driving. You’ve probably seen people begging at stop lights or near on ramps when there is a lot of traffic, I know I have, so when I started driving, I carried on this tradition of keeping food in my car so I didn’t feel pressured to give money.
Ok, honestly? I actually don’t mind giving money to the homeless. Yes, I’m aware some oft hem have addictions, and may choose to use the funds to support their addictions. Some of them though, just want to call a friend on a pay phone, or get a few things off the dollar menu. I used to serve the Pittsburgh homeless, and even the most strung out addicts would want a hot meal. So I do give money from time to time, because I believe that my generosity can never be a sin. What they might use the money on may be sinful, but on the other hand it may not be either, and you should never be afraid to be charitable based on a prejudice of the homeless.
Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system… I keep food and supplies in my car because I don’t always have cash on me. In fact, I rarely have cash on me unless we’re headed to church [its for the collection basket]. In San Diego, you can get by with having food and water to distribute, but when you live near the Steel City, this thing called winter happens, and the homeless are in need of much more than just food and water. When I did homeless ministry they would often ask for socks, hats, mittens, change for the pay phone, tissues, and the list goes on…
So, I went to the dollar store and REALLY stocked up my bags. Here’s what we put in them:
-$1.50 in change
-tooth brush and tooth paste
-tea bags and a packet of sweetener [most fast food places provide hot water for free]
– a pen and some paper
– granola bars [that don’t expire for several months]
– soap or hand sanitizer
– lip balm
– cough drops
– a prayer card
I also bought 4 hats, but the bags were already pretty full, so I stuck them in my car, just in case I see some one who needs one, but if not, then they will make it into my next batch of bags. I made 4 of these bags, 2 to keep in our mini van, and 2 to keep n my husband’s car. The past few times we’ve been out, we have seen homeless standing at intersections begging, and have had nothing to give them, so I am happy that we are both armed with some supplies for the next time we’re up in Pittsburgh or just around town! When we give away a bag, I’ll restock when I get home. A lot of these things, are items you probably have around the house. I can’t wait for my kids to be apart of this when they are a little older and eager to “help.” It is a great teaching moment about charity and taking care of other humans!
[tip: you can also make smaller versions of these bags with Ziplock sandwich bags. I made 3 for our recent trip to New York, so I could carry them around in my backpack and hand them out while we were walking. It was a big success and every one we gave one to was very appreciative!]