“Making a list and checking it twice.” I must admit I never thought much about checking my Christmas list for gifts for the homeless. Now I can’t get that question out of my head. Who gives Christmas gifts to the homeless? What are the gifts that would be most appreciated by them? Even, why give gifts to the homeless?
Vincent sets a high bar
Vincent had firsthand knowledge of many homeless persons, especially refugees and what they needed most. And he committed resources even when it hurt.
Father José María Román tells us, in chapter XXXI of the book “Saint Vincent de Paul, a biography,” how the 30-years war aggravated poverty. With scarce economic means himself, Vincent sent for his bursar and asked him how much money they had in the safe.
“Just enough to feed the community tomorrow,” answered the bursar.
“And how much is that?”
“Well, bring them to me, please.”
The bursar, somewhat displeased, obeyed and Vincent used his community’s money to make up the amount of money needed to help the people of Lorraine.
His example is undoubtedly radical: he gave the money that the Vincentian community needed to eat the next day to meet the needs of the refugees. Are we just as radical?
Practical things we can do
As we move to the final preparations for Christmas I googled Christmas gifts for the homeless. I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of results it produced and the creative ideas.
1. Direct gifts
Simple Luxuries such as Old Spice Body Wash or the imitation brands available in Dollar stores, McDonalds or similar gift cards. Even long distance Phone Cards.
Necessities of Life such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, and razors, even underwear and socks.
And then there is period poverty. Periods can be difficult enough to manage, but lack of funds and the challenges of the environment can be particularly difficult for women There’s been a trend going around for giving homeless women a purse or bag filled with useful feminine hygiene products like tampons, towels, and the like.
2. Donate to those who work directly with the homeless.
Another way to start is to search online for an organized homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your area, and see what sort of help they’re looking for over the Christmas period. They work with the homeless all the time, and have a concrete plan in place for ways to support those on the streets.
The greatest gift
Gifts are always well-meant. Empathy towards someone right there in front of you – someone who’s often treated as invisible – is vital. We can all give the gift of a smile and a kind word. For people who are invisible these can mean a lot.
Hopefully, as you make your list you will check it twice for the homeless.
PS After composing this post I found this list from the San Francisco Post
You can give hope, joy and inspiration with ANY small gift, including that old standby, money. But if you’re looking for some practical tips, here’s a few ideas.
1) Give warmth – you can find nice knit watch caps for as little as a dollar at many stores, including Target…
2) Give protection – If you’re considering gifting an umbrella, don’t go buy one! Instead, buy (for about the same price) a sturdy plastic poncho…
3) Give health – Footcare is a huge deal if you’re exposed to constant rain, have no reliable access to a bathroom, and spend all day on your feet…
4) Give joy – I personally think every present should have a little treat in it…
5) Give understanding – with the economy so dire, many people may not be able to afford buying anything new…