Originally published February 7, 2018 and updated December 6, 2022.
For years my family has made blessing bags for the homeless for cold weather care. You can make these to hand out yourself or to donate to a homeless shelter. This is a great project to do with children or with as a group activity.
I’ve worked with homeless teens and with homeless adults. Homelessness is tough for so many reasons, but it’s incredibly difficult in cold weather. Dealing with freezing temperatures is not only uncomfortable and inconvenient, it can be harmful and even deadly.
Over the years I’ve volunteered with different people experiencing homelessness around the country. Every homeless community has different needs determined by weather, the specific environment and available resources for homeless individuals. The tips provided are from my personal experience in many different communities, however consider unique needs that may exist where you live.
Many years ago, my family started a tradition of making homeless care kits as a family activity. It’s important to me to teach my children about caring for others in our community. Making these blessing bags is a wonderful and concrete way to encourage helping others. It’s a great opportunity to talk with children about the needs of and issues facing homeless people.
These care bags are also known as:
- Winter homeless bags
- Winter homeless blessing bags
- Winter homeless care packages
- Winter comfort bags
Blessing Bags for the Homeless in Cold Weather
Ideas to fill a cold weather blessing bag for the homeless:
- Warm hats – Knit hats that cover the ears are the best choice. Look for a variety of colors so that individuals can choose a favorite color. This is also a great opportunity to make warm hats yourself. If this is a group project, you can solicit donations of handmade hats.
- Scarves – This easy houndstooth crochet pattern scarf is my favorite to make.
- Gloves – Look for both thinner and heavier gloves so that they can be layered. Ideally, you’ll include one pair of thinner gloves and a pair of heavier gloves in each blessing bag.
- Rain Ponchos – You can find these in the camping section of your department store.
- Heat Packs for feet and hands.
- Lip Balm – Extreme temperatures are tough on exposed skin and that includes lips.
- Hand Lotion – Chapped hands are an issue during cold weather.
- Tissue Packs
- Mints or Hard Candy – Everyone needs a treat and hard candy can also soothe a sore throat or cough.
- Gift Card to Local Restaurant or Coffee Shop – A $5 – $20 gift card allows an individual to seek shelter from the weather and enjoy a warm meal or drink. It also provides them access to a warm bathroom.
- A heartfelt note – Let your recipient know that you care.
You can use this free printable Stay Warm note. Simply print it out, trim and add to each bag. This is also a wonderful opportunity for children to draw pictures or write sweet notes (with some adult guidance of appropriate messaging). What is more precious than a hand-drawn picture from a child?
Place items in a zippered plastic bag to make them easy to store and hand out. It helps keep items clean in a difficult living siuation. The plastic bag can also be used for storage later.
You can read about how we set up our items in stations and have our children “trick or treat” to fill their care packages when we made blessing bags for the homeless for foot care. If you want to know what to put in a care bag and what you shouldn’t put in, here’s How to Make a Blessing Bag.
When you go shopping, pay attention to numbers of items so that you have complete bags. With this cold temperatures, these blessing bags for cold weather are much needed. Please make as many as you can to help as many people as you can.
Where to donate homeless bags for winter
- Homeless shelters
- Local shelters treating substance abuse
- Emergency groups
- Groups working with homeless teens
- Hand out to homeless people you interact with in your community
- Veterans groups that work with homeless vets
- Faith-based organizations
- Food banks
- Organizations providing hot meals (what used to be known as soup kitchens)
Frequent Asked Questions about Homeless Bags for Winter
What items do homeless need most in winter?
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Money or gift cards
- Lip balm
- Waterproof tarp or plastic liner
What do you give homeless people in the cold?
Think about what is needed and what will improve comfort when living outdoors in extreme temperatures. Warm clothing, especially thermal socks, gloves and hats are always needed. Items for shelter and warmth are needed, such as a tent, tarp or plastic sheeting, blankets and quilts. Harsh winter weather takes a toll on exposed bodies so lotion, lip balm and pain ointments like Bengay are helpful. You can create homeless care kits in zippered plastic bags filled to meet basic needs in the cold weather.
What do you put in a homeless blessing bag?
Choose items that are easy to carry and easy to use. You can find many of these items at a dollar tree type store. Items such as:
- Non-perishable food, such as Granola bars
- Look for softer versions since many in the homeless populations deal with dental issues
- Individually packaged snacks
- Individually package or resealable packaging of fruit and nuts
- Toothbrush with small tube of toothpaste
- Personal hygiene items
- Individually wrapped hard candy and mints
- Baby wipes, hand wipes or hand sanitizer
- Small first aid kit
- Hair brush and comb
- Baseball hats or winter hats
- Warm clothing in winter
- Socks, athletic or winter weight
- Gift card to fast food or coffee shop locations
- Rain ponchos
- Waterproof reusable bag or backpack
What can I donate in winter?
Clothing for the winter season is expensive. Donate coats, hats, gloves, thick socks, heavy pants, sweat shirts and thermal underwear. Items to keep people warm such as sleeping bags ,mylar blankets and quilts. More protected shelter from snow and dampness is helpful; tents, waterproof tarps and umbrellas. Personal care items such as lip balm, hand lotion, tissues and small first aid kits are appreciated. Snack packs with filling individually wrapped food items.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these 10+ Homeless Care Package and Blessing Bag Ideas.
For all my favorite purposeful acts of kindness ideas check out the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.
I’m a mom of 3, a veteran and military spouse. I’ve moved into 20+ homes all around the world. My passion is helping busy people make the space and time for what’s really important to them.