People often think about doing something for people who are homeless during the winter. They might take jackets, winter caps, sleeping bags, blanket and other winter items to help homeless people who might be stuck in the cold.
Summer presents another set of challenges as temperature soars into the nineties and in some areas above a hundred degrees. Some of the health risks then are dehydration, heat stroke, general exhaustion, and athlete’s foot.
You can make the summer a bit more bearable for people who are homeless. Some needs are year around, some are more seasonal. Obviously this really isn’t the time of the year to focus on providing blankets and jackets.
Here are seven ways you can help people who are homeless this summer.
Collect and distribute light summer clothing. This includes t-shirts and shorts. Most homeless people have limited access to air conditioned facilities so they really need cooler clothing during the summer. Be sure that the clothes are clean and in good repair. The general rule is, if it’s something you won’t wear yourself, throw it away. Remember the dignity of the people you are serving. Before distributing the clothing, have the items clearly marked with masking tape that it is for men or women and the size. If possible separate the items by size ranges so they will be easy to locate as needed.
You could provide people who are homeless with baby wipes. People who are homeless can use these to clean up when they don’t have access to proper shower facilities.
Bottled Water or Gatorade
You can give away bottled water. Water is essential to prevent dehydration on very hot days. If you can afford it, things like Gatorade will not only help people on the streets remain hydrated but will replace lost minerals as well. They don’t have to be ice cold, but make sure they are cool. You don’t want to give out hot bottles of water or Gatorade. Try to make it as refreshing as possible.
Foot care is a major concern for people who are homeless. Because of heat, lack of ability to stay clean, and lack of clean socks, athlete’s foot is a major concern for homeless men and women. You can help by giving new socks, foot powder, and athlete’s foot spray to people who are homeless Shower shoes are also very helpful since the only access most homeless people have to showers are showers used by many other people generally in homeless shelters or homeless resource centers.
Retailers like Wal-Mart often sell ankle and short socks by the pack for $7 or $8 each for a pack of ten. You may even be able to find better deals on line. You can get foot powder for a $1 a container. Athlete’s foot cream or spray is more expensive but is really appreciated.
When you help homeless people with their foot care, be sure to take a large container of baby wipes. You can give a couple to each person so they can clean their feet before putting on their new socks or applying the crème or powder.
Homeless people often need backpacks. This is a good item to collect all year round, but a great time to obtain these will be at the end of summer when it’s back to school time. A lot of retailers will have special prices on backpacks. People who are homeless have to carry almost everything they own with them. Backpacks can be a real blessing for them. Back to School time is also a good time to get others involved in collecting backpacks. A lot of people will pick up an extra one for a homeless person if they are already shopping for their kids.
Another item the homeless need year round is underwear. For men, they generally prefer boxers in dark colors. Also use masking tape to create an easy to see label and mark them with the size to make distribution easier.
Be sure to smile. Strike up a conversation with someone who’s homeless. You may find that your stereotypes get challenged. In addition, the person who’s homeless feels that someone actually sees them as a person and cares about them. Smiles are FREE.
However you choose to help people who are homeless, you don’t have to do it alone. If you are a member of a church, synagogue, mosque or are part of some other religious tradition, you can go to the leadership and tell them what you would like to do. Often they will let you organize a collection drive. You can tell friends what you are doing. They will often bring clothing or they may buy the items you need. Make this a community effort with friends and family. As you help those who are homeless, you will also find that you are being blessed as well.
(the above is an article I wrote for my Love the Homeless site.)