How was your Christmas? Bountiful? And do you now have a pretty big bag of your old clothes that you think you’ll donate to a homeless shelter?
Think again. Those ripped jeans may have treated you well for years, but when it comes to what homeless shelters really need, they don’t even make the Top 10.
At men’s shelters, new socks are #1 on many lists. And at women’s shelters, properly-fitting bras are in the highest demand.
So sure, donate food and that bag of clothes. But also keep an eye open for overlooked but needed items that aren’t being donated:
Toilet paper. There’s never enough, it’s always in demand, and adding a few rolls to your donation will make a difference.
Bath essentials. Small, sealed bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and deodorant help people who depend upon public rest areas for bathing and washing stay clean.
Dental hygiene essentials. People without health insurance often cannot visit a dentist. Donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for normal and sensitive teeth can help them keep their teeth and gums healthier.
First-aid items. Sealed boxes of Band-Aids, medicated wipes, ointments and bandage wraps are always needed but not always available to people impacted by homelessness.
Pads and tampons. Period products are an expensive and unavoidable monthly necessity, but no one should ever be denied access to feminine hygiene. Boxes for all situations and all body types make an immediately helpful donation.
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Diapers. Baby clothes are always a popular donation. But diapers, baby powder and baby wipes are rarely donated. Assistance programs like WIC and SNAP don’t cover diapers, so they’re always in demand, in all sizes for all ages.
Underwear and socks. Donating a gently-used overcoat is acceptable, but donating used socks and underwear is a useless gesture, as they’ll most likely be tossed out. However, new socks are said to be the most-needed and least-donated item at men’s homeless shelters. Think about spending a few dollars on large packs of plain socks and underwear in various sizes that you could donate.
Old cellphones. Your old cell phone isn’t obsolete just because a newer upgrade caught your eye. At the very least, if it’s a modern phone without significant damage, it can be used for emergencies. If you have several older phones, consider donating all of them (and maybe keeping one as a backup).
Bus passes and gas cards. The gift of transportation will free those looking for jobs and homes, and enable the bearers to keep appointments and take their children to playgrounds. Any denomination will be helpful, but the larger the amount on the cards, the longer someone can use them.
Naturally, cash donations will always be welcome at any homeless shelter, but how much of your donation will be allocated for socks and bras cannot be guaranteed. If you feel like you’re too tight on funds to make a significant donation, the most thoughtful gift you can give, and the most appreciated, might well be the gift of your time as a volunteer.
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