On a personal note, I was baptized yesterday.  It has me feeling a bit invigorated, so I thought I’d post some of the small things that I do to try and help others.  Poverty and especially homelessness are issues that hit close to home for me.  Overcoming those challenges continues to be a struggle.  But I’ve come a long way, and I’m very fortunate.

I skipped over blessing bags because information on those can be found everywhere. So here are 5 of my favorite, simple (and low cost) ways to help people in need.

  1. Quarters. Quarters go a long way when you’re on the street.  They can be used at the laundry mat.  Vending machines.  Pay phones (if you can find one). Or even to buy single cigarettes (don’t be judgy).
  2. Umbrellas. This isn’t homeless specific.  The dollar stores usually have umbrellas for sale.  I keep a stash of them in my car and hand them out when I see folks caught out in unexpected rain.  In particular, the people stuck waiting at bus stops that don’t offer any coverage.
  3. Bottled water. This is an obvious one.  I always have extra bottles of water for when I see people who look like they could use it.  Bonus if you keep some of those water flavoring packets on you.  The bottled water tastes fine.  But chances are that bottle is going to be re-used.  And water fountain water is so nasty sometimes that it’s hard to choke down.  You can have a flavor packet already scotch taped to the side of the bottle as you hand them out.
  4. Bus passes. This may vary by city and state.  But if you live somewhere where you can purchase daily bus passes ahead of time, they are helpful to keep on hand.  A lot of people hit me up for change because they say they need to buy a bus pass.  So I’m able to give them a pass right then and there instead of cash.  Sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t.  But the bus can be a blessing for those who need a ride to a shelter or soup kitchen that’s across town.  It’s disappointing how resources are spread out across major cities.  I know that sometimes people will turn around and sell the bus pass for cash anyway, but it’s out of my hand at that point, so I never worry about such things.
  5. Gift cards. You go to a fast food place, and there’s someone there asking for money.  You don’t want to give them cash, and I don’t recommend just buying them whatever food you think is sufficient (you don’t know about potential food allergies, etc.)  Instead, you can buy a small gift card and hand it to them on the way out.  Then they can ration it however they like.  It’s a more significant help than you realize because now they can buy some coffee or whatever and use the bathroom and get a break from the elements without being accused of loitering right off the bat.  Obviously, this can also be done at places like Target, etc.

I will do much more in the future to help tackle this complicated issue.  But in the meantime, these are some of the small things that I can do to try and make a difference.