I’ve always felt that it’s MY responsibility to take care of the poor and downtrodden in my community. Although I donate to charitable organizations, I find the most satisfaction when I can give to others directly.

I was thinking about this list the other day when I saw a homeless woman walking on the street. I knew that I needed to do something to help her but I didn’t want to give her money.

When I get holiday gifts, I hate the money presents because although they’re useful, they’re so generic. They require absolutely no forethought. I want to do more meaningful things to help the homeless. I offered her a granola bar which she gracefully declined. As I walked away I started crying. Although I wasn’t able to help her, I’m so glad that I said something and that I had the courage to offer what little help I could at that time.

1) Carry around granola bars. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s actually a great way to solve one of the most pressing problems that homeless people have. What could be more meaningful than giving food to a hungry person?

2) Gift Cards and Coupons. Often times, homeless people have a small amount of money to use for their most basic needs. Giving a coupon can ease some of their financial burdens. Giving a gift card is even better.

3) Rent a locker to store their valuables. It’s hard for homeless people to keep their most valuable possessions safe, so one blog I read suggested that you pre-purchase a few months rent on a locker at a shelter or community center.

4) Extra blankets and sleep pads. Rather than giving them to a thrift store, put them in your car and wait for the opportunity to give them away yourself.

5) Be on the lookout for easy job opportunities. It’s hard for homeless people to find job opportunities. One of the greatest ways you can help them is through referrals and networking. Networking has been proven to be the best way to get a job and that applies to homeless people too!

6) Clean clothes. (Same as bedding)

7) Save old hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles. Small sizes are easily transportable which makes them a better option than large cumbersome bottles. Take your own bottle of shampoo on vacations and save the travel size bottles for others.

8) Donate bus tokens. It can be hard for homeless people to get around town quickly, bus tokens can help quite a bit. You can either purchase tokens on your own or coordinate with the local homeless shelter for help.

Kate Herrod is a student, business intelligence analyst and writer with the coveted skill of effortless parallel parking. She enjoys creating new cookie dough flavors, solving mysteries and social entrepreneurship. Kate wishes that she knew how to pick a combination lock, speak 3 languages and sail a boat. She lives by the idea that it’s not as important to be desired by others as it is to be irresistible to yourself. Read more from Kate here and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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