Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pinterest Inspired Wednesday- Blessing Bags

Last year I read the book Same Kind of Different as Me. It totally changed my view on homelessness.

A few months ago, I saw this pin on Pinterest:

They called them "Blessing bags" to give to homeless people instead of feeling guilty and just avoiding eye contact or giving them money which is apparently the last thing you should do.

I see homeless people a lot more here in the Triangle than I have any other place I have lived.  In downtown Raleigh I have had a man follow me until I gave him some money.  I don't really like giving money because I am afraid they are either conning me and not really homeless or they will use the money on drugs or alcohol.  So I decided to make these "Blessing Bags".  Here is how mine turned out:

I included shampoo, body wash, wash cloths, lotion, a comb, tissues, deodorant, gloves, crackers, candy, toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick, advil, antibacterial wipes, band aids, a dollar in change and an encouragement card and a list of area resources for the homeless with addresses and phone numbers.

I ended up making four total and last week I gave the first one to an older man with a cane on a popular mall exit in Durham.  I said "I hope you can use this stuff...I just tried to think of things you might need."  He seemed a little weirded out at first by the bag, but then said "Oh yes mam. Thank you."

After making the bags, researching homeless resources in the area (there are a ton!) and thinking about it some more, I think after I pass out all these bags I might just do encouragement cards with a list of homeless resources and maybe a McDonald's gift card.  I mean there are a ton of places in the area where they could get these things and more.  Maybe they just don't know about them or don't want to try to get help there (because I'm sure they had drug and alcohol policies)?

One of the best local organizations I found was the Durham Rescue Mission.  They had a great page that gave tips on how to help the homeless:

1. Never give cash to a homeless person

Well intended gifts are often used to purchase drugs or alcohol.  If a person is hungry, buy them a sandwich or beverage.

2. Talk with the homeless person with respect

Take time to speak in a friendly, respectful manner.

3. Realize the homeless and their problems are not all the same

Remember those who are homeless may be homeless for many reasons, such as addictions, domestic abuse, poverty, lack of job skills...the list goes on.

4. Share God's love whenever you can

The Lord would have us to share His love and salvation with everyone we come in contact with each day.  Those who are homeless often feel isolated and lonely.  They need to hear that their shattered lives can be mended through and in Christ.

5. Pray for the homeless and [organization's that help the homeless]

God can use your prayers to bring many who are broken in heart and spirit to Himself.  As you pray for those who are homeless pray for [local organizations that help the homeless].  [Their] staff is on the frontlines each day reaching out to share the love of God with men, women, and children in need.

6. Take precautions for your own safety

Always be aware of your surroundings when reaching out to the homeless.  Stay in areas where other people can see you.  Don't take unnecessary chances.  Some men and women living on the streets are criminals and/or fugitives from the law.  Use good judgment.

7. Encourage the homeless to get help

The homeless [can] find a hot meal, safe-shelter, clean clothing, vocational training, biblical counsel, job placement, as well as free dental, eye, and health care [through organizations that help the homeless].  Most importantly, they will find a loving, caring staff ready and willing to help them back to a productive life.

8. Support [local organizations that help the homeless]

Thoughts??  How do you interact with the homeless?


Camille said...

love it! I agree with everything you said! Another great book that I think you may like, that I LOVED is "under the overpass" . it looks at homelessness from a Christian perspective.

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

OH, I love this! I once dated a guy that would always go buy them lunch and bring it to them. I don't like giving them money either. I once was sitting on an exit ramp off the interstate and a guy was standing there with a sign. He must have saw me looking at him and he flipped his sign over for about 10 seconds and it said "I'm not really homeless, I make 50,000/year doing this"

I was appalled! I've never given them money since. :/

Luisa Rodríguez said...

I loved this post! I had never read or even heard anything about this issue before. This is such a great idea! I'm in!!

I feel so bad when i come across the homeless. Especially during the winter - it is so sad. I never give them money, though; i bought lunch to this woman once that was asking for money to buy a sandwich. But I never give them money... maybe it's the right thing to do, maybe not. I don't know. It's not that i am afraid they're lying and using the money to buy alcohol or drugs - it's just that if they are lying, i don't want to be responsible the addiction..

Anyway, i know they're grown-ups and this is a very debatable issue, but i'd love to be able to help in different ways, instead of giving money directly to them..

Congratulations. Many blessings.

it must be (so)... liberating

Marie said...

I love this idea!

I don't usually give money to the homeless since pretty much everyone in my town is lying. They all walk around the corner where their ride is waiting. Not only that, but my town is the only city in CA that's bankrupt. Why would you pretend to be homeless here?

Ms. Morgan said...

This is such an amazing idea. I agree I sometimes worry when giving spare change on where it's going. But then I once heard this story of a man who admitted that he bought beer with the money he'd collect during the day. He'd drink it all so he'd pass out at night - that way he didn't feel the cold of sleeping outside. It made me realize there are so many other levels of why someone is homeless. I give blessings every day that I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, a job and family who would help if any of the above stopped. These Blessing Bags are a wonderful idea and actually something I think a number of the shelters in my town might appreciate. Thank you for the idea.