How To Put Together A Care Pack For a Homeless Person
Care Pack for the Homeless
Picture this: A cold and dreary work day like any other, one among many in the relentless chill of a Canadian winter. Bundled up in my winter gear, forging my way forward against the biting wind, my excellent peripheral vision picked out someone ahead of me, sitting in the snow. I shuddered, shocked that someone had to sit on the snow-clad ground. We made eye contact. My conscience hollered for me to stop, but I was going to be late for work. I walked on. Having dealt with my first bit of work, I snuck off and went to get a bagel and a coffee. By the time I got back to the street, it had been over 40 minutes since we had made eye-contact. The homeless guy had moved on to greener pastures.
And there and then, as I turned this way and that on the sidewalk like an idiot, holding a steaming cup of joe in one hand and a buttered bagel in the other, I resolved to do something about my bad timing and guilty conscience. I resolved never to be found wanting again.
I don’t believe in tossing coins at a homeless person. I’ve seen some with little plastic cups beside them, filled with pennies and the odd nickel and dime. Sure, they ask for your spare change, but it’s code. What they’re really asking for is compassion, some human connection. Or possibly something to feed their nicotine habit. Anyhow, it’s the height of bad manners to toss pennies at people. Picture yourself in that situation, being tossed at, or trying to count out pennies for a coffee while a line forms behind you and the cashier sighs with impatience. Just don’t do it.
What, then? Well, if it’s lunchtime and you’re not running late, and there’s a nearby store, you could go buy a sandwich, or maybe a cup of soup in the winter. The first time I did that, my heart pounded, but it got easier the second time. After that, I was looking forward to seeing a homeless person. But only if I wasn’t in a rush, and there’s a supermarket nearby, and it wasn’t late at night. Thing is, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. The homeless person won’t necessarily make it easy for you. Try to outwit him. Carry the stuff with you.
Granted, you can’t carry perishables every day. Your bag will get stained and start to smell funky. Your friends and colleagues will start giving you funny looks and edge away. So, give it some thought. Some perishables aren’t that perishable (think canned drinks and snack bars), while small articles of winter gear (a tuque, a scarf, a pair of socks) will last forever and won’t take up much room in your everyday bag.
WHY SHOULD YOU???
If you’re reading this, chances are that you have a roof over your head, you’ve never worried too much where the next meal’s coming from (heck, you even have three square ones every day), and you have people who care about you. Let’s face it. The homeless, by definition, don’t have any of the above. And with privilege, as the saying goes, comes obligation.
Start planning how to outwit the next homeless person you see. No matter where he sets up his spot, you’ll be ready for him. Because…you’ll be carrying with you a Care Pack, in which you have stuffed all manner of goodies that a homeless person would be happy to receive.
THINGSTO PUT IN YOUR CARE PACK
- soft drink (canned coffee might go over better than a juice box)
- meal replacement bar or snack bar
- fruit bar (never forget those vitamins)
I prefer not to get anything that’s out and out bad for you, but if you’re the kind of person who lives on junk food and feeds that to your kids, feel free to include all manner of junk—you’re not abusing the homeless, you’re just treating them like family!
- a tuque (a must for any Canadian winter) or
- a scarf or
- a pair of gloves or
- a pair of socks
Do not give the homeless person your tatty cast-offs; there’s loads of this kind of stuff available at your local dollar/thrift store, e.g. tube socks in packs of 6. Put everything into a small box--those sturdy plastic ones you get takeout from your favourite restaurant work perfectly.
DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for you getting hurt by a homeless person, so to this end, I have compiled the following lists. Please read the following very carefully and use your common sense.
You do NOT approach the homeless person who is doing any of the following:
- shouting and/or gesticulating at people both seen and unseen
- mumbling to himself
- swinging a half empty glass bottle in one hand
- holding a steaming cup of joe in one hand
- wafting alcohol fumes and other pleasant effluents downwind of his beat
- has a crazy look in his eyes (you may define crazy any way you please)
- has bad penmanship or grammatical errors on his cardboard plaque (jk)
The homeless person whom you will approach will be known to you by the following characteristics:
- is sitting cross-legged on the ground (someone capable of a yoga pose is probably harmless, or at the very least, it will take him time to get to his feet, by which time you would have scampered off two blocks down the street)
- is not making eye-contact with anyone; his eyes are fixed upon the ground, where images of his sad past are replaying before his eyes (he will have no time to look at your face and recognise your mug as you quickly leave your offering and then scamper off, thus making you anonymous and safe)
- has the saddest look on his face that you have ever seen (if you don’t stop for this guy, you just know you will be up half the night)
And there you have it: the whys and wherefores of putting together your very own version of a care pack to offer the next harmless-looking homeless person you come across.
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