Homeless hands

What Do People Experiencing Homelessness Need Most Besides Shelter?

By John Lingan
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To experience homelessness isn’t just to lack a roof over your head. Unsheltered individuals live without the means to acquire the basic human comforts of warmth, health, safety, and cleanliness. Whether you’re gathering donations for a local shelter or looking to help a person on your block, consider some of the less-obvious things that many homeless report as essential needs.

What Do People Experiencing Homelessness Need Most Besides Shelter?

Socks. Living on the street, many unsheltered people rarely take their shoes off. They walk often and don’t always have laundry facilities at close reach. That’s why clean socks are a reliably top-requested item at homeless shelters. Any care kit that you prepare or donate should include them.

Personal hygiene items. Hygiene is one of the major barriers for unsheltered people’s ability to connect with others, including potential employers. Poor hygiene is also a significant cause of health problems in people who experience homelessness. Shelters will always be grateful for donations of shampoo, soap, shaving supplies, tampons, and feminine pads. Travel-size products allow individuals to carry these supplies in their own bags, as well.

Food. Handing a person money might help them down the road, but handing them something to eat, even something small, can help them right now. Besides, not every restaurant or business serves or welcomes unsheltered people, so bringing food directly to them can avert that obstacle altogether. Consider regular contributions or volunteerism at food-sharing programs, as well.

What Do People Experiencing Homelessness Need Most Besides Shelter?

Pet food. For many individuals experiencing homelessness, pets are literal life-savers. The sense of stability, companionship, and connection that dogs and other animals provide to their unsheltered owners simply can’t be overstated. Pet food donations, or contributions to organizations like Pets of the Homeless, can help protect these essential friends.

Gift cards and transportation passes. Prepaid debit cards or gift certificates can empower unsheltered individuals in many ways. If they have families, gift cards offer the chance to make a meaningful gift or use money how they see fit. And transportation funds allow them to overcome one of the major barriers to upward mobility—or to just get a few hours of warmth on a cold night.

Raingear. When you’re at the mercy of the elements, even a light rain can create severe discomfort or even damage personal valuables. From umbrellas to boots to tarps, no rain-proof gear will be unappreciated if offered.

What Do People Experiencing Homelessness Need Most Besides Shelter?

Compassion. People experiencing homelessness are just that: people. They have the same need for interaction entertainment as anyone else. In polls and memoirs, people who have experienced homelessness say that small acts and minor gifts, whether brief conversations or books, can be intensely meaningful for anyone who feels pushed to the margins.

Hygiene is another of those essential personal needs that can be hard to meet while living without shelter. That’s why every sale of The Right To Shower products helps fund Lava Mae, the groundbreaking new nonprofit that is bringing mobile shower units to America’s unsheltered population. We believe that every person deserves their dignity and health. Everyone deserves to feel their best.