How can you best help the homeless?
It’s a big, complicated question with no quick, easy answer. But after lots of research, we believe these are some of the highest quality items—priced reasonably—that you can purchase for the boxes of kindness you give to your homeless neighbors. Consider this our best-in-class bulk shopping list, including the reasons why each purchase can help the homeless.
A pair of socks can be one of the most useful items for those who are homeless. You can help your neighbors keep their lower digits fresh, warm, and comfy. After all, their feet are often their main mode of transportation. Purchase 72 pairs if you’re creating a large batch of boxes. Otherwise, order the necessary sets of 12 you need to make smaller batches. Wool socks are even better if you live in a colder climate. Your cost per pair will range between $1.11 to $1.67.
Nail clippers are more than a nice-to-have when you're living outside. Without regular access to a shower, or even a bathroom sink at times, nails can grow long, jagged, and dirty. Having the necessary tool to clip and clean your nails is just the trick. Purchase as many 12 packs as you need at a total cost of only 67¢ per clipper.
Adhesive bandages can do more than just heal wounds and cuts. They might help your neighbors protect against blisters and callouses, too. The larger and more flexible the bandages, the better. Include at least a couple individually wrapped bandages in each box. This package of sturdy, yet flexible band-aids will get you started with the necessary items you need for your boxes at a cost of 34¢ per bandage. As a pro tip, you may also want to have some individually packaged bandage wraps on hand for those who have visible wounds needing treatment.
A comb may seem like a trivial need, but this is a matter of dignity. Just look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning and imagine what you would do without the hair products you use to take care of your appearance. Help your homeless neighbors manage their unruly manes by purchasing this massive order of 144 plastic combs at an incredibly cheap cost of 7¢ per hair-tamer.
Wet wipes are another refreshing essential that can help your homeless neighbors cleanup. While it's not as good as a head-to-toe shower, wiping down your face, hands, and arms can feel wonderful to anyone who has been collecting dirt and odor. To help refresh others, purchase these 12 resealable packs with 15 wet wipes in each, costing you a total of 92¢ for every pack you place in a box—that’s just 9¢ per wipe.
Q-tips may seem unnecessary to those with a home, just like many of these other items might, as well. But nobody likes their ears being clogged. Given the fact that your homeless neighbors don’t have the normal protection of walls to surround them at night, good hearing (and therefore, clean ears) are one of their most important lines of defense. While these 8 individual carry cases do come in handy, at $1.59 per case, it can drastically increase the cost you spend on each box of kindness. As a result, purchasing a standard package of 750 Q-tips and rubber-banding them together in bundles of 30 is the more cost-efficient choice. That will only run you about 19¢ per box and less than a penny per cotton tip.
Skin moisturizer can feel like heaven to the dry, rough skin of those braving the elements. From tough and rough to smooth and silky, lotion offers welcome reprieve to your homeless neighbors, even if short-lived. These 24 travel-sized lotions register at a pleasant and affordable cost of 62¢ per bottle.
Lip balm is a necessity when standing in the sun—or blistering cold—all day. There are few things more aggravating and painful than dry, cracked lips. Give your neighbors the opportunity to smile back at you without pain by purchasing this 120-pack of miniature, natural chapsticks. If you’re making a smaller batch of boxes than such a large order requires, purchase these 24 chapsticks instead. Depending on which size you buy, the cost will run you between 40¢ and 79¢ per stick.
Toothbrushes and toothpaste can seriously help those who need a mouth freshening. While these items can be easier for the homeless to obtain elsewhere, it's a gift that shows your concern for their whole well being. Ordering toothpaste that is extra tough on dental or gum disease is an extra nice step. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than these 100 individually wrapped toothbrushes, whatever number of boxes you're giving away. Complement the brushes with this set of 12 travel toothpastes and you'll be set. The cost per toothbrush will only run you 30¢ while each tube of toothpaste tallies in at 76¢.
Beef jerky isn't everyone's taste, we realize. But when you're hungry, these mighty little sticks of protein can truly give life. Even if someone’s teeth are in pain and requiring professional attention, sucking on these links will give them just the juice they need. Grab these packs of 50 individually wrapped jerky sticks and distribute them in each box as needed. For such a mighty meaty snack, it'll only cost you 31¢ per link.
Raisins may take some of us on a jaunt down memory lane, when we used to get our fingers sticky in little red boxes. But raisins remain a reliably tasty treat for any age. Purchasing these 36 packs of mini raisins boxes will allow you to load at least one dried fruit snack in each box, costing you a total of 41¢ per snack.
Granola bars are a toss-up on value, if we’re being honest. While the long shelf life of these crispy treats are fantastic for boxes that might be waiting for opportune moments in the back of your car, the stickiness of these snacks can hurt some people's teeth. We still load each of our boxes of kindness with an individually wrapped granola snack, but be forewarned that this may not help everyone in quite the same way (which is true of any of these gifts, really). This hefty 58-pack of granola bars are great buys for large and small box batches alike. Each order will only cost you 22¢ per bar.
Fruit strips, like granola bars, aren't everyone's cup of tea. For those with challenged teeth, the sticky, leather-like texture of a fruit strip may present more of a bummer than a blessing. But the taste is good, and a little burst of organic, fruit-based sugar will delight many of your homeless neighbors. These 48-strip packs will help you fill your boxes with a yummy, fruity surprise at 22¢ per strip.
Water is always welcome—and necessary. Hydration is regularly lacking among your neighbors without homes. Give someone the H20 that they need, at least 16 ounces at a time. You can purchase any number of standard-sized water bottles at your nearest grocer. Retail wholesalers like Costco usually have the best deals, but they should be comparably priced at nearly any local market. If you purchase 24 packs of water at a time, it should rarely cost more than 25¢ per bottle.
Though these purchases will surely be appreciated by the homeless neighbors you encounter, your kindness will be on even greater display when you take the time to add a personal note of encouragement in each box. Whether that’s a thought, a word, a doodle, your name, a quote, a verse, or something else entirely, your words—however brief—carry far more power to reveal love than a box that costs you less than $10. In this regard, we encourage you to put your mouth where your money is.
While all the above items represent our attempt to extend kindness to our neighbors in the form of useful essentials, hygiene products, and refreshing nourishment, we also encourage you to be creative. Products like sunscreen are wonderfully helpful in all sunny climates, while gloves and scarves are God-sends during colder seasons. Packing blankets are especially cushy and big for those who are often confined to hard pavement or dewy grass, just as Mylar blankets can help others keep warm at a reasonable price. Quality, reusable water bottles always help with hydration needs. Headlamps or flashlights can also shine a ray of light and peace to those who are often left in the dark. Even backpacks can serve as more than a knapsack, often serving in disguise as a pillow.
Finally, if you can afford to purchase higher quality goods than we’ve recommended here, by all means, do it. Doubling up on smaller items’ quantities is always welcome, too—though we would encourage everyone to meet more people’s needs with less stuff before meeting less people’s needs with more.
In other words, our recommendations aren't exhaustive. We simply hope that the goods which we have decided to pack in our own family's efforts to love our neighbors will help provide you with a starting point to go out and do the same.