Creating Care Packages for the Homeless

Poptart and I were appalled recently by what, in our opinion, could be called the War on the Homeless. Ignorant and cruel memes flooding Facebook, newspaper editorials from citizens complaining about having to “put up” with the less fortunate, and downright abuse and assaults like what happened to Kelly Thomas make it seem that America is a country that delights in kicking someone when he or she is down. People call the homeless lazy as if this is a worthy excuse for their hate and neglect, and they make their judgment without even knowing a person’s story. With the economic downturn, rising costs of living, and loss of quality jobs, it’s not as hard to become homeless as many assume. And it’s time people started bravely posting statements of love instead of hate.

Poptart and I live in the Bay Area, where there is a large homeless population. We’ve met a lot of homeless people. Frankly, they are some of the nicest people we’ve met. People are too complicated to put into a category, to be given a label, to be forgotten. And people should be ashamed for passing judgment as casually as they order a latte.

Poptart and I wanted to work against this antipathy toward the homeless by creating care packages for as many as we could afford so they know that there are still some who care and who have the capacity for love.  We’ll walk you through the care package and how we dispersed them in case you want to give to the homeless as well.

First, we came up with a list of items we would love to receive if we were homeless. The recent cold spell in California that has resulted in the deaths of some of the homeless reminded us how important things like blankets and socks are. We also thought vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hydration would be a major issue for someone with little access to food and water. We also wanted to include a little luxury item just for the lifting of spirits. Keeping all of this in mind, the list we came up with includes a quilt, socks, fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and a drink.  Poptart had the wonderful idea of using a 5 gallon bucket to place the items in so their recipient can protect them from the elements and use the bucket for personal hygiene or as a chair.

The quilts Poptart made by hand and used freshly laundered but worn out t-shirts for the filling.  We found nice, warm fleece on sale at a craft store. This was, by far, the most expensive item in the bucket ($60 for four quilts), but it was also the most important item, we felt.

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Poptart knitted the socks. She made them thick and big to be worn at night.  She made them from existing craft supplies, so this item cost nothing.

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Poptart also went to our local farmer’s market for fruits and vegetables. This allowed her to get a lot for a low cost and support local vendors. She got apples, but she also got oranges in case the recipient doesn’t have the teeth to handle the apple. She also got carrots because they are durable and last a long time. She got enough fruits and vegetables to fill four buckets for only $14. We washed and dried all of the produce before putting it in the buckets so it’s ready to eat. Keep in mind that recipients of the care package might not have easy access to clean water to do these basic things.

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For a drink, we chose PowerAde. We were going to go with water, but we decided on a sports drink instead because it hydrates while restoring electrolytes. A big pack of PowerAde bottles cost us just $5.

For the special luxury item, we got bars of Belgian milk chocolate (of course) for each bucket.

This time, we were able to put together four bucket care packages. Each bucket contained three bottles of PowerAde, a quilt, a pair of socks, a bag of fruits and vegetables, and a bar of chocolate. Finally, we put a content list on the lid of the bucket with pictures in case the recipient can’t read and a note wishing the owner a happy holiday season.

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We drove into San Francisco to hand out the buckets. We gave one away to a man on Fisherman’s Wharf. He seemed to be most excited about the fruit, and it warmed our hearts to see him sorting through his treasures as we walked away. We gave two more buckets away on Haight to a couple. They thanked us, and the lady told Poptart she’s pretty. They also said they would have to volunteer at the Salvation Army to repay the kindness. When we drove away, the man was going through his bucket and seemed happy.  The last bucket went to a man outside the Posey tube in Oakland. He was a little wary at first but took the bucket once we explained it had fruit inside. He seemed to think we were playing a trick on him but thanked us once he realized the gesture was genuine.

I’ve heard people say that some “homeless” are con artists and that people who give to them are suckers. Well, we’d rather be suckers with the chance of helping one person genuinely in need than to be scrooges making the world a colder, more hateful place for everyone. Altogether, the buckets cost around $100, but they brought smiles to four people. I consider this a worthy investment, and it was much more fulfilling than wasting the money on something we don’t need. If you make your own care packages and distribute them, consider what items would be most useful but also include a treat. What would you want to find in your bucket? Remember, crafting a better tomorrow for those around you crafts a better world for you and future generations.