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How to Help Homeless People in the Wintertime

Updated on November 17, 2014

How Can I Help Homeless People?

Find out about helping the homeless including much needed items to help them get through the cold winter months. Being homeless can be tough enough during the summer, but imagine being out in the elements during freezing temperatures, rain or snow.

From blankets to food, I'll give you suggestions on how to donate to the homeless and hopefully, a better understanding of folks who no longer have a place to call home.

Homeless image by Ed Yourdon via Getty Images at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

How People Become Homeless

Many people assume that homeless people are homeless due to substance abuse or that they're too lazy to work. Yes, in some cases that is true, but there are many other reasons that people are living on the street.

Often, when a woman takes her children and leaves an abusive relationship, she walks away with no money. If unable to find someone to move in with or if there are no local shelters that can take her family in, then she has no choice but to live on the streets.

Sometimes people just fall on hard financial times. I met a homeless man one time who used to own a home and held a high corporate position. He lost his job and was unable to find another one. His money ran out, he lost his home and had no other option than to live with other homeless people. This just begins to touch upon why people are homeless.

Homeless family image by Rain Rannu at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Jobs for the Homeless

Getting a job as a homeless person is no easy task. Most employers want an address and phone number of the person they're considering hiring and most homeless people have neither.

In addition, going to work means having clothes to wear to the workplace and homeless people don't have large wardrobes. In addition, many don't even have a suitable outfit to wear to an interview.

In other words, many homeless people would love the chance to work, but circumstances prevent this from even being able to try. So while some assume that homeless people would rather be homeless than work, often this is not the case.

Man on bench image by Ed Yourdon via Getty Images at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

In the United States of America, the state with the most homeless people is California.

Clothes for the Homeless

In case you're wondering, yes, that's a real person in the snow. This homeless man is just trying to stay warm. Jackets are great to give homeless people, In some cases, it's their only source of warmth. Shoes are also appreciated as well as warm socks. I would also recommend mittens, scarves and beanie hats, particularly for the children.

This doesn't mean you have to go out and spend a lot of money. Perhaps you have some old clothes around the house or consider picking up something at a local second hand store like Goodwill or Salvation. You would also be helping out these organizations as well.

Man in snow image by brownpau at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Blankets for Homeless

Blankets are very helpful to homeless people. I know a lady who would take any spare money she had just to buy blankets for the local homeless people in her area. She told me just how appreciative the people were to receive them.

I also recommend sleeping bags. These will help to keep their bodies insulated on the cold winter nights. Perhaps you have an old one laying around the house that is no longer used?

Sidewalk image by Henrique Vicente Via Getty Images at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Pinzon Microtec Blanket

Homeless Poll

Have you ever been homeless or know someone who is?

See results

Food for the Homeless

Not all homeless people have access to some kind of a soup kitchen or food bank and need food to eat. Although you may want to donate money, unless you personally know the people you are giving to, I wouldn't recommend money. Instead, I would bring them food.

If you enjoy cooking, you could cook a big batch of soup to help warm them up on a cold day. Be sure to bring along some Styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons. Another idea is spaghetti with sauce. It's an inexpensive food and filling. Even some warm muffins would be nice.

If you want to keep it extra simple, how about some sandwiches? Keeping in mind that the homeless don't always have the luxury of eating healthy, I would also add some fresh fruit like apples, oranges and bananas. Remember, most do not have access to a refrigerator or cooking source, so whatever you bring cannot be cooked or refrigerated to eat later.

If the person or persons has a dog with them, pick up something for the dog as well. A can of wet food is a nice treat and a bag of dog food will help to keep the dog fed and healthy.

People image by Franco Folini at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Helping Homeless Children

I think one of the most difficult sights for me to see are homeless children. Consider donating any kind of warm clothing to them along with mittens and boots. You might also think about an umbrella to keep them dry in the rain.

Various holidays take place during the winter months and sadly, most of these children don't receive any gifts. Contemplate a present for a homeless child. It doesn't have to be anything expensive.

A coloring book with crayons could bring hours of fun. A teddy bear can be cuddled and activity books can be looked at over and over again. Make it extra fun by wrapping them.

You might also want to toss in a new toothbrush with some toothpaste and proper hygiene is important, but not always easy to achieve.

Child image by thelesleyshow at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

Did you know that actor Jim Carrey used to be homeless?

Money for the Homeless

Some people assume that when they see a homeless person going through a garbage container, that they are looking for food. Sometimes this is the case. Other times they are looking for empty bottles and cans that can be taken in to be recycled and thus earning money for themselves.

Consider donating your empty cans and bottles to homeless people. Not only are you helping them, you are also helping with conservation efforts.

man image by flickr4jazz at Flickr through Creative Commons Licensing.

What Homeless People Need

In addition to the above mentioned items, there are some additional ones I would like to suggest. Toiletries such as soap and shampoo are appreciated. So is some kind of container to keep personal items in such as a backpack.

If finances allow, a weatherproof tent can keep people dry during the snow and rain months. Medical supplies are often needed such as ointment and Band-aids.

If you have a cell phone, offer a phone call to a loved one. Lastly, offer them respect and dignity. Take the time to sit down and talk to them. Sadly, many have very little companionship.

Image by Franco Folini at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

The Golden Voice Ted Williams

Ted Williams was homeless. By pure luck he was video taped and his "Golden Voice" was discovered. Since that time he has gone on appear on TV shows such as The Early Show and Jimmy Fallon, along with doing voice overs and publishing a book. In other words, just because someone is homeless now, it doesn't mean that things can't change. All someone needs is a chance. Take a listen to his wonderful voice.

Before getting her big break, actress Halle Berry spent time in a homeless shelter.

Question time!

Do you see homeless people any differently after reading this?

See results

Backpacks on eBay

Look at these great deals.

Charity Lens

All profits from this lens are being dontaed to Nomsa, a Squidoo affiliate charity which helps homeless people.

What do you think would be good to give a homeless person during the winter?

Guestbook Comments

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    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      4 years ago

      @asereht1970: Thank you for the lovely compliment.

    • asereht1970 profile image

      asereht1970 

      4 years ago

      I really just love reading your lenses. This one is very touching and an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      4 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: I'm glad you didn't end up homeless.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      4 years ago

      @Heidi Vincent: Thank you.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      4 years ago

      @bpratt lm: How wonderful that so many people were willing to help. I love the idea of a gift card for food.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      4 years ago

      I have not ever been homeless - but close. Thanks for the compassionate, intelligent lens.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 

      4 years ago from GRENADA

      Very thoughtful and compassionate lens!

    • bpratt lm profile image

      bpratt lm 

      4 years ago

      Growing up in California there was no shortage of homeless people, or those who were down on their luck. My peers and I were lucky enough to grow up knowing that they weren't horrible people to be avoided, and actually everyone went out of their way to help them. Whether they gave them their umbrella and a gift card for food, or they sat and had a conversation with them, there was always someone trying to help. This lens is truly inspirational, and I hope that people truly understand your message.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      4 years ago

      @goldenrulecomics: Thank you for reading it.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for sharing this important message,

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      4 years ago from Ljubljana

      Some kind of hug is useful in any time of the year.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      Thanks everyone for your comments.

    • Vincent Fleming profile image

      Vincent Fleming 

      5 years ago from Indiana

      This is very sad but true. Next time you (we) see a homeless person when it is cold out, stop and give them the coat off your back. You can afford another, they can't. You will be blessed more than you could imagine!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 

      5 years ago

      We have places where anybody can go and sleep, eat, get clothes and food-stuff. There are big collection points in many parts of the city where we usually put things and clothes to donate.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      It's true, we need to help out where we can. Some homeless people don't want to be bothered but most of them welcome help.

    • profile image

      poutine 

      5 years ago

      Very well done. Lots of good photos.I added this lens to my homeless one

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 

      5 years ago

      Hello, Janis. I chose this lens for the "what inspires me" quest. I just wish that everyone could read this lens. Every amount of kindness, no matter how large or small makes a difference. Great great lens.

    • OMENA777 profile image

      OMENA777 

      5 years ago

      Thanl you for this lens. Much needed.

    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 

      5 years ago

      In this great country of ours there should not be such a thing.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      5 years ago

      A friend of mine lived on the streets voluntarily when she was 15. Today she's quite successful.

    • rasnasah profile image

      rasnasah 

      5 years ago

      I have no words.Very touching .Everybody should help homeless.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @takkhisa: I completely agree.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @Diva2Mom: Thank you for such a heart warming comment. It's really touched me.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @VspaBotanicals: That is such a beautiful act of kindness you have shown.

    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 

      5 years ago

      Truly wonderful lense. Pains me to see people that struggle to have a place to live.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 

      5 years ago

      Absolutely great lens and i do hope everybody should help homeless people not only in winter but also all the time.

    • Diva2Mom profile image

      Diva2Mom 

      5 years ago

      What a beautiful, inspiring lens indeed! You truly captivated my heart with your kindness and love for the homeless and needy ones. This lens is perfect to remind everyone to make a difference in this world everyday by reaching out to those who are in needs esp. this special season of giving, in honor of the Lord's Nativity. May God bless you sweetheart! I love your kind spirit! Very BLESSED by a little Squid Angel. God bless you sweetheart! Huge hug and muah!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 

      5 years ago

      Truly heart wrenching. Just a little bit of help makes a difference, and I try to do that as much as I can. There have been many times, when my family has taken in someone who was homeless, and they've gone on to restart their lives. wonderful lens.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @CoolFool83: I know what you mean.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hugs and thanks.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: As a mom, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have a home for my kids. It's so heartbreaking to see people who are homeless.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @Petzard: We really do.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @NickyT2: Thank you for such a heart felt comment.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @angharad: It does seem unfair, especially for parents with kids.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @Camden1: Very true.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @kislanyk: Thank you very much!

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @DuaneJ: Incredibly so, especially in areas with snow.

    • WriterJanis2 profile imageAUTHOR

      WriterJanis2 

      5 years ago

      @jolou: Food is really important.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Returned to G+.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Food, shelter and clothing are needs we all have and you present these needs with the dignity and respect you encourage us to give people who are experiencing homelessness. Then there are the extras that we tend to take for granted that would be so much appreciated. You were inspired as you wrote this with great love and compassion, thank you.

    • Petzard profile image

      Petzard 

      5 years ago

      Food and shelter. This is what we all need!

    • NickyT2 profile image

      NickyT2 

      5 years ago

      Wonderfully compassionate piece of writing. It was an honor to read it, and thanks for this reminder about how we see and care for people who need help in this life.

    • profile image

      angharad 

      5 years ago

      It is shameful that so many people are homeless in this country where others are so wealthy. Thank you for your thoughtful lens.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 

      5 years ago

      Excellent suggestions on how to help homeless people. Wintertime, and the holidays especially, are particularly difficult for the homeless.

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 

      5 years ago from Cyprus

      I think this is a very generous endeavor - blessed.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 

      5 years ago

      I truly appreciate the noble thought that sparked this lens. Winter can be tough.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 

      5 years ago

      Food, clothing and shelter are the most basic necessities, but I would pick food first. You are so right that homeless people aren't necessarily drug addicts or mentally ill. This is something that could happen to anyone. We have a lot of homeless people in my area, most of whom are in the downtown area.

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