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Make Hygiene Kits for Homeless People

by Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Homeless people often go without the basic necessities most Americans take for granted. In the struggle to find food and a safe place to sleep, homeless people find it difficult to acquire basic items such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothbrushes. Without the right supplies, simple hygienic activities such as brushing their teeth or washing their hands can prove to be a challenge.

In the United States alone, an estimated 1.75 million people experience homelessness each year. The lucky ones are given space in crowded homeless shelters, which often provide a small sleeping area and, sometimes, a meal. Rarely are the homeless given the basic hygiene supplies necessary to maintain their health and confidence. Everyone should be able to look themselves in the mirror. Access to basic personal supplies can give these homeless people a greater sense of self and a brighter outlook on life.

With just a few hours of do-it-yourself volunteering, you can put together hygiene kits for homeless people. These kits include simple, inexpensive items that can be picked up when grocery shopping or with a quick trip to the dollar store. By giving these basic supplies to the homeless, you can help them avoid physical and dental health problems. Perhaps even more importantly, you can help them retain their dignity during a trying time in their lives.  

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Step 1 – Decide where to donate hygiene kits

Before you begin putting together the supplies, decide how you will distribute the hygiene kits. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Donate to a local homeless shelter or food bank: Find organizations by looking in your local yellow pages or check America's Second Harvest to find local food banks. You may also want to ask a local church for suggestions on where to donate the hygiene kits. If you plan to donate multiple kits to a homeless shelter, food bank, or other formal organization, be sure to call in advance. Shelters may have specific requirements for donations or may have suggestions for items to include.
  • Donate through the mail: If you live too far from the nearest organization or simply find it easier to drop a package in the mail, call or email a shelter or food bank and ask for an address you can send donations to. 
  • Donate directly to homeless people: You may want to give your hygiene kits directly to the homeless people you come in contact with. Some hygiene kits can be made with travel size supplies small enough to fit into a purse or small bag. When a homeless person asks you for assistance, you'll be prepared to help them out in a quick and easy way.

Step 2 – Gather materials

Decide what you want to include in your hygiene kits and begin collecting the supplies as your schedule allows. Don't feel that you have to spend a lot or that you have to buy everything all at once. You may want to pick up a few extra items each time you go grocery shopping. Soon, you'll be ready to make the kits. Or, consider spending your lunch break at a local dollar store. You'll find everything you need for the kits at cheap prices. You may also want to get your friends and neighbors to help you out with donations of unused items they have on hand. The more people you can involve, the easier and cheaper the project will be.

If the organization you are helping has specific requirements for hygiene kits, be sure to comply. If you have no guidelines to follow, here are a few necessities you may want to include in your hygiene kits:

  • soap
  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • washcloth or hand towel
  • deodorant
  • comb
  • shampoo
  • tissues
  • hand sanitizers
  • feminine hygiene products

Step 3 – Assemble the hygiene kits

Once you've gathered the necessary items, it's time to organize your hygiene kits. Group the items by product to make a simple assembly line. Unless given other guidelines, put the hygiene items in a Ziploc bag so that they are easily accessible. Be sure that the caps are tight to prevent spilling when the hygiene kits are moved.

Step 4 – Drop off or ship the hygiene kits

Once the hygiene kits are assembled, donate them to your chosen organization. You'll be glad knowing you've made a difference in the lives of the homeless in this simple, inexpensive way.

More information on how to collect and distribute hygiene kits is offered by:

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