I asked the kids to help me assemble some winter warming care packages for homeless people we may encounter. We were dismayed last winter at the number of people sleeping in doorways when the temps got really low, so this year we’ll be ready to offer a tiny bit of relief. The kids got pretty excited about it, but then they wanted to rush out and give them all away today – and that’s not really the point. I don’t want to give the kits out just for the sake of giving them out and making us feel good, I want them to be useful for people who are cold.
Homelessness in Portland is a huge, complicated issue. I trust my gut on giving money to people who ask, and most of the time I do not give money. I don’t know if someone is just begging because it’s working for them, or if they really have no other options. I also don’t know if the people asking for money on street corners and outside stores are even homeless. But when it’s literally freezing outside and I see someone hunkering down for the night, it’s pretty clear that they are going to have a cold night. And THAT I can help with!
I did a bunch of research and read several articles about what to include and what not to include in a care package like this (links below). I decided I wanted to keep us focused on physical comfort in the winter as opposed to providing all kinds of toiletries or food. I think it helps to be focused because it would be easy to make this too cumbersome, or include a bunch of things that won’t necessarily be needed. Since my particular concern last year was around people not being warm enough, that’s where I tried to keep focused. We did add some other comfort items like baby wipes, waterproof bandages, lip balm and facial tissue. Winter definitely can make lips chapped, and waterproof bandages seem like they could always be useful. And who doesn’t need a tissue now and then in the winter? The unscented wipes – well, that just seems really useful any time of year.
I went to Fred Meyer, because they have these gloves that fit a variety of hands and they’re only $1.20. Even when they’re not on sale they’re only two dollars. I actually like these gloves for myself, so I feel good about giving them to other people. They’re not the most amazing gloves in the world, but they work. Also, Fred Meyer has a 50% off all socks sale the day after Thanksgiving. I asked the manager there if they would be willing to extend that discount to us today, even though the sale was no longer on. There was a 25% off coupon available, but I was hoping for 50%. I was super happy that the manager agreed to give us the 50% off, because that allowed me to buy wool socks for our care packages instead of cheap or cotton socks. When cotton gets wet, there’s just no getting over it. Granted, dry cotton socks are better than no clean socks, but I was really glad to be able to buy the wool socks with the extra discount.
Several articles I read mentioned suggested putting these care packages into gallon size Ziploc bags. The Ziploc bag will keep everything dry and contained, and could be useful beyond the life of the care package.
I ordered a case of HotHands hand warmers from Amazon, so that will be added to each package when they arrive, then I’ll be ready for action.
Further, the Dollar Store had nice fleece-lined knit beanies, so I put one of those in each package as well.
I’m just planning to have some of these packages in my car at all times, and keep them in our shopping bags, so when we’re out walking around the neighborhood, are going to the farmers market, or whatever – if we see somebody that we think needs it, we’ll be ready to give them a bit of relief from the cold.
Included in our kits:
I made 10 packages, and spent about $120. I have a few extra pair of wool socks, and about 15 extra pair of HotHandz that we can give out as needed. When we go through these packages, we will make more, but maybe we’ll ask people we meet what would be most helpful to include.
Here are the articles I read before going shopping:
Note: I added affiliate links in the post above. If you buy those items through the links I provided, I may get a few cents which I will reinvest in more care packages!