Even though I knew we had low-income families in our community, it wasn’t until a family opened a center in a poor area of our city that I understood the extent of the crisis.
The stories of the homeless people in my community broke my heart — from mothers needing clothes for their kids to young adults sleeping on the streets. I promise; homelessness is near you. In fact, over 500,000 people are homeless each night in the United States.
Teaching your children about homeless can seem hard because you don’t want to make them afraid that they will become homeless. However, at the same time, encouraging empathy in our children is an important task that we should pursue.
Here are some simple ways that your children can help the homeless.
1. Gather Used Clothing
We have to sort clothes anyway, so this year, have your children help with a simple purpose in mind – giving to children who need good clothing and shoes. Let your kids pick out outfits, shoes, and coats to give. You might be surprised because children are often willing to give up their favorite items to other people.
2. Seek Out Local Groups
Chances are there are centers in your area that need help, and they need a variety of helping hands. They might need help dishing out meals, a great activity for older kids. Young kids can come and color with other kids their age, making friends.
3. Make Sandwiches
Many shelters close at night, but they leave food out for the homeless. Our kids love to take down boxes of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Kids of all ages can help to make the sandwiches and deliver them.
4. Purchase Christmas Gifts
Our kids are blessed, because they wake up to Christmas gifts every year. Imagine being a child without that chance and magic. Every year, our children purposefully pick out gifts for other kids in need. You can take an angel from the tree or find a local group taking gifts. Get your kids involved in the process of selecting gifts!
5. Make Holiday Dishes
Does your local group need pumpkin pies or green bean casseroles for Thanksgiving? Perhaps they need a ham for Christmas dinner. Each holiday, thousands of groups put on holidays for the homeless. Volunteer to make one yourself, with the help of your child.
6. Homeless Bags for the Car
If you see people begging on the corners, I highly encourage you to create homeless bags. All you need are gallon Ziploc bags and items to put inside. Have your kids help you pick out the items. Put non-prep food items such as peanut butter cups, crackers, granola bars, raisins, and other items that won’t go bad.
You can also include basic hygiene items, hand warmers, gloves, hats and more. Let your imagination flow. When you see someone in need, let your kids give them a kit or two!
Share the ways you help the homeless with our readers in the comments!