You’ve seen them outside buildings and on the side of highway overpasses, but have you ever taken a moment to help and get to know a homeless man or woman?
It’s easy to adopt pre-conceived notions of homeless individuals, but every story is unique. And behind every cardboard sign is a human soul who is as equally loved by God as you or me. Whether they are homeless for two days, a month, or several years; these people are experiencing some of the lowest moments of their lives and it’s your act of kindness that the Lord can use to lift up their spirits and remind them of Christ’s love.
Our excuses range from our busy schedules to how tight our own resources are, but just a moment of of self reflection will usually show us that we do actually have the time and ability to help downcast individuals in a small, yet important way. And if you’re a follower of Christ, you also want to bless people with the truth that sustains and upholds our own lives—God’s Word.
But just handing out copies of Scripture can seem like a trite, impersonal gift for someone who’s asking for food or money. Which is why we’ve put together a guide for how to bless the homeless with God’s Word that’s complete with ways for you to fulfill their other important needs, as well.
How to Get Started
In terms of how to help the homeless, there really is no wrong or right way to go about it. Whether it’s money, a tangible gift, or your time; any contribution is helpful as they are all important in their own way.
The Question of Money:
Ultimately, whether you give money is up to you. If you’re handing out a full care package, then money may seem redundant with everything else you’ve included. Also, there are many people and organizations that discourage you from giving any money to homeless men and women because it can do more harm than good. What if they use it for drugs or alcohol instead of something that could actually benefit them?
However, when you offer money to people in need, it is also true that it’s not up to you how they spend your gift. Yes, they may steward it poorly, but they also might not. What’s most important is that you show compassion to this person, smile, make eye contact, and pray that the Lord use your meeting as a providential means to help them find a way out of their bad situation.
Putting together care kits is a simple way to provide practical help to a homeless man or woman. Whether you’re packing a freezer bag, reusable tote bag, or handing just one or two items out at a time; there are many things to choose from that can help make someone’s miserable day a little bit better.
To assemble a care kit, you can choose any combination of the items below. If you want to bless someone with God’s Word, we recommend including a pocket testament version of The Gospel of John. Whatever you include in your gift, keep in mind that you are also offering something intangible—hope, encouragement, and unconditional love.
Options to include in your care kit:
– Gallon sized freezer bag as a container (You may also consider a reusable tote bag that remains beneficial after the other items are used up)
– Notes of Encouragement
– Fresh, clean socks (especially wool)
– Laundry detergent (maybe also w/ quarters for a laundromat)
– Bandaids to help with blisters
– Snacks like nuts, crackers, dried fruit, trail mix, granola bars, breakfast bars, instant noodles, crackers w/ peanut butter, apple sauce, cereal bar, tuna and crackers, beef jerky, or instant oatmeal packets
– Throat Lozenges (you might also consider mints, gum, or chewable multi-vitamins)
– Gift certificates to fast food
– Bottled water
– Toiletries like deodorant, toothbrushes, combs, small soaps and shampoos from hotels, lip balm, comb/brush, razor, shaving cream, washcloth, sanitizing wipes, maxi pads, pack of tissues, or nail clippers
– Seasonal items like gloves, hats, scarves, or heat packs in the winter; or sunblock and frozen water bottles in the summer
– Local resource card (Find information from a local homeless shelter in your area that can be written down or printed out)
– You might also want to print out a list of what’s in the bag so the they know exactly what they’re getting
**Some of the ideas listed above were found at Portland Rescue Mission’s website on “How to Pack a Care Kit.”
Before giving out a Bible and care kit, you should keep in mind that you want to show the person receiving your gift that he/she is not just something to be marked off of a good deed check list. It will mean so much more to people receiving your gifts if you can introduce yourself, learn their names, hear their stories, and offer to pray for them if the situation allows.
Just like you might interact with a stranger at a party, your personal interaction will be an act of kindness that will remind them that they are valuable and that someone cares.
Naturally, if the only interaction you have with a person is when they are standing next to an intersection, you’re only chance to offer a care package will be a very brief moment—so make it count! In just a few seconds, a warm smile and blessing can send a powerful message.
Some Final Tips:
- Be safe. Most homeless men and women are not dangerous, but it’s wise to go with a friend or group of people when handing out care kits. Assess the situation and be observant about what could or could not be dangerous.
- Invite others to do the whole process with you, such as friends, coworkers, or people from your church. When you do this, you can make the care kits together and pool money so that it relieves the cost of everyone participating.
- Separate any shampoos, soaps, conditioner, and other toiletry products from food. This way the contents (and the perfumed-smell) won’t cross contaminate something that’s supposed to be eaten.
- Avoid items that include alcohol like mouthwash and hand sanitizer, as they can potentially be abused and consumed by addicts.
- When handing out water, make sure it’s not boiling hot after sitting in your car during the Summer. It’s tempting to leave care kits in the backseat so they are ready for any opportunity, but having some diligence to make sure your resources are received well goes a long way.
- Find out what resources and programs are in your city. Most urban areas have a wide variety of services available to homeless men and women that they may not know about. Do your research ahead of time so that you might also be a blessing of knowledge.
- To avoid having to sleep on the street, many homeless individuals are forced to reside in the only safe space they have left: their car. This comprehensive guide is another helpful resource you can share with someone you encounter who is living out of their vehicle.
- Learn about your own misconceptions. There are a lot of un-truths floating around about homeless men and women, so you might want to read up on 7 of the most common myths about homelessness.