One of the most overlooked groups of people are those who are homeless. We see them every day—on street corners, under bridges, and walking down the road with shopping carts. Some people believe they are all alcoholics and drug addicts. I disagree.

There are many reasons people become homeless. Some people lose their jobs. Others suffer mental illnesses and legitimately have a hard time taking care of themselves. Some are homeless because of divorces or family situations. Some are evicted, not because they don’t pay their rent, but because their apartment building or the house they are renting is sold and they can’t find a place to go. There are circumstances when they aren’t given enough time to find a place to go. There is a never-ending list of reasons why someone can wind up out on the streets. It doesn’t all have to do with addiction and poor life choices. In fact, any one of us could wind up homeless for any reason at any time.

Living on the streets is not an easy thing. You have to be smart, and you have to be resourceful. How do I know this? I have known friends who have been homeless at one time or another in their lives. Instead of looking down on the homeless, why not do something to lift them up? Something that will brighten their day and make their life easier? Here are some ways to show love, compassion, and kindness to these human beings who are just like you and me.

1. Buy someone a meal-Although this is pretty obvious, it can mean so much to a homeless person. You never know when they ate last. Even better, buy them a gift card for the fast food restaurant to use over the next few days.

2. Take someone a blanket-It can get cold at night, depending on where you live. If you have extra blankets, keep them in your trunk to give away.

3. Give someone a “blessing bag” of toiletries-Fill several ziplock gallon bags with a toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash and hair shampoo, a travel size bar of soap, band-aids, travel wipes, hand sanitizer, and a washcloth. (Note: Add feminine products like pads/tampons, travel size body spray, travel size hair conditioner, and a comb to the bags for females.)

4. Give someone a “blessing bag” of food-Fill ziplock gallon bags with non-perishable foods like tuna/chicken salad kits (with a pop top), fruit cups, pudding cups, granola bars, protein bars, cereal bars, fruit n grain bars, small bottles of water, etc. Add some napkins, and you’re all set. Keep them in your trunk to hand out.

5. A bus pass-Most homeless people have to walk everywhere they go. Purchase several bus passes for a month and hand them out. This will make their life much more manageable.

6. Bottled Water-Keep bottles of water in your car that you can hand out on hot days. (Make sure they are BPA free bottles.)

7. Sunscreen-Buy sunscreen at the end of the summer season if you see it on sale and give it out the following summer. For those of you who live in warmer climates like California and Arizona, these can be given out all year ‘round.

8. Donate to your local homeless shelter-Call your local shelter and see what the shelter needs for their residents.

9. Donate your time-Volunteer at your local homeless shelter and make a difference.

10. Donate Shoes-Having, a good pair of shoes, is essential for those who are homeless because they walk so much. Ask your friends if they would be willing to pool some money with you and buy 10-20 new pairs of shoes for the residents at your local homeless shelter. You could even set up a “shoe drive” online for local people in your area to donate shoes. Call the shelter beforehand and see if they can tell you what sizes they need in both male, female and children’s shoes. Another idea is to purchase gift cards to a shoe store and donate them.

11. Rideshare Gift Cards-Purchase Uber or Lyft gift cards. This will make a homeless person’s life easier by being able to get to where they want or need to go.

12. A sweet treat-Everyone loves a sweet treat sometimes. If you have an ice cream parlor or bakery nearby, offer to treat a homeless person.

13. Gently used coats-If you have gently used coats and are planning to get new ones this year, keep them in your car to give to a homeless person.

14. Pet food-Buy a bag of dog food and divide it into gallon ziplock bags. Buy some cans of cat food and put 3-4 cans in a ziplock gallon bag. Homeless people’s pets need to be taken care of too.

15. A note of inspiration/encouragement- Take some time to pen a few inspirational notes and keep them in your car. These notes can contain heartfelt words, Bible scriptures, or favorite quotes that help you when you are feeling down. These can also be included in your blessing bags. You may save a life.

16. Join a homeless advocacy group-There are groups who go to local homeless camps and take supplies. Join one and help make a difference. There is strength in numbers.

17. Give someone a compliment-A compliment can go a long way.

18. Gym Membership-This would work best if:
A.) You know someone who is homeless very well.
B.) There is a Planet Fitness gym nearby.

If both of these quantifiers are a yes, offer to get them a Planet Fitness membership for a month. Not only can they work out, which is good for the mind, body, and soul they will also have access to a shower regularly. For only $10/ month plus taxes, there is nothing to lose and a changed person to gain.

19. Smile-Acknowledging a homeless person by smiling at them can make their whole day much brighter.

20. Talk to them-Homeless people are people too. Take some time to say hello and talk with them for a few minutes. They want to be seen and heard just like everyone else.

The next time you are out in your community, take some time to survey your surroundings. If you see someone who is homeless, take a few minutes out of your day and do something to make a difference in their lives. Let your compassion and kindness shine and give them a kindness card. They will much appreciate it, and you may save a life.