Blessing Bags for Homeless
A blessing bag is a bag of needed items for someone we might encounter. Blessing bags can be created for a number of situations such as a single moms group, a men’s rehab center, a new mom’s gift for a pro-life center, a veteran’s event or as this blog indicates, a homeless individual. As a Christ follower I continue to look for needs that God places in my path. When I see a need, I believe that when it is in my power I should do all I can do to meet it.
If we prepare to share kindness with these people, we will be able to be the hands and feet of Christ.
While I created blessing bags with my children in the past, it is something I have started doing again. Our efforts primarily responded to those we passed as we were stopping at a stop light. Let me just pause to say that I realize discretion must be used in giving to people standing near cars. Some of these situations are not safe. I never roll my window down more than necessary.
This past summer I started taking yoga classes in an area of town that put me in contact with a corner which on most days had homeless women. Consistently, I noticed two young women at this corner. I gave them food and water bottles nearly every time I passed. It seemed rude to see them so frequently without asking their names. So, I did. Also, I began to bring fresh food from home for Tracy and Anna. While I told them about the various shelters and gave them the contact information, they were not interested. That was their choice. I did my part. I knew by the sores all over them that they were long time drug users. It made me sad. They were so young. From a decade of teaching children, I know of several of my students who are on the streets consistently as drug addicts. Their parents are my friends. It is heartbreaking is so many ways. The pain seems to go on forever. While I am a natural problem solver, I have long given up on heroic efforts. All I can offer is kindness. Everything beyond that is beyond me. God knows.
Who are the homeless in the United States? According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness nearly 70% are individuals. About 100,000 of the half a million are chronically homeless. Just about 15% are veterans which is the same percentage as unaccompanied minors. According to this same report men are at a greater risk than women to be homeless. Racially, white individuals make up over 25% of this group with black and hispanic sharing the remainder. Some of the good news is that homelessness is down in the last ten years especially with veterans.
How many homeless are in our country today? In January 2020, according to this same report, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America. They lived in every state and territory, and reflected the diversity of our country. In my state of Tennessee about 7,000 people are homeless in contrast with California which has more than 160,000 homeless. There is so much you could learn about this problem in our country, in your state and community. If you are looking for a tangible way to jump in and help, this is a great idea. Start by making blessing bags and sharing them.
Blessings bags are easy to prepare. Please don’t give homeless individuals money. Any facility involved in helping these people will tell you not to give them money. These bags can be just toiletries or just snacks. One thing to note is that these should not be used items. Take some time to think about what might be helpful if you or your grown child were in this situation. Your blessing bag might even include a fresh fruit item that you grab that day. Do you remember the extra travel size toiletries that you brought home from your last trip? Include these travel size items. Once you have compiled a blessing bag, keep them in your vehicle in arm’s reach. Ask God to show you the right time to share this bag. Often needs are right in my path like the two women I see on the way to yoga. Who is in your path?
When giving your blessing bag, give it with the warmest smile. God created them. Just acknowledging their existence is kindness. So many people act like they are invisible. They are someone’s little boy or girl. If they were your child, your sister, your brother, your friend or someone you loved wouldn’t you want someone to be kind to them? Tell them that God loves them. Truly, they were made in God’s image.
The best part of this idea is that you likely be more blessed than the person that you bless. Try it.
Since I often anticipate passing an area with homeless people, I grab a fresh item to share. Sometimes it is a sandwich or a muffin or a bag of fresh, warm homemade cookies.
Here are some things to consider putting in your blessing bags:
Gallon size Ziploc bag
(or a bag of your choice)
Non Perishable Food Items
tuna/ cracker packs
fruit snacks or dried fruit
applesauce (Don’t forget to include a spoon.)
hot drink packets – hot chocolate, cider, tea
beef jerky sticks
peanut butter food items
cheese and cracker packets
anything you enjoy
bar of soap
(You might want to put the soap in an extra bag or create a toiletry bag that slips into the overall bag. Soap next to a food item could create a soapy tasting food item. Not good.)
In cold season – hand warmers, scarf, gloves, blanket
In warm season – cold ice water, a hat, sunscreen, lip balm
note of encouragement
Book of John – a small paperback that costs $2
ChickfilA sandwich gift card, or any nearby gift card
business card or information card for Salvation Army men or women’s shelter or shelter in your area
Aim to make ten of these bags. I usually put one of these bags together for less than $10. Keep them in your car in reach. Another idea is to contact a homeless shelter, a pro-life women’s center or a veteran’s center in your area to find out specifically what they need. Some of the places that help in our area are the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter, Salvation Army Men’s Shelter, various women’s shelters, downtown mission centers and a men and women’s Warrior Center. The Warrior Center is an 18 month rehab program for drug and alcohol abuse.
Let me just say that you should use discernment when sharing these bags. Only roll your window down partially. Sometimes a person does not look safe enough to approach with a bag. Some homeless people do not look legitimately homeless. You will just have to use your good sense. Make adjustments to the contents of your bag based on the season. Gather the things you have at home. Pick up the rest of the items or order them. Create the bags. Pray for an opportunity. When you run out of bags, make more.