hope for the homeless.


When I first heard about Claire’s Hope for the Homeless Project, I thought it was brilliant. She’ll humbly disregard the credit and tell you she found the idea on Pinterest, but if there’s one thing I know about Pinterest, it’s that there is a big difference between pinning ideas, and making ideas happen. Believe me, I would know. I have 110 DIY projects on my craft board, and I haven’t done a single one (yet, guys, YET!!).

But I digress.

The concept of Hope for the Homeless is simple: keep bags of necessities in your car so that when you encounter a person in need, you have something tangible and thoughtful to give them. 

When I worked downtown, I encountered homeless people on a daily basis, many of whom were mentally unstable. I didn’t always feel safe talking to strangers during my six block walk from the parking garage to my office, and usually avoided direct eye contact. The exception to this was the woman in the floral dress with the grey tights, who sat outside Subway next to a giant cart full of belongings. She was there just about every day, and I occasionally gave her snacks from my packed lunch.

If I’m being honest, that’s about the extent of my action with homeless people in Sacramento. I rarely give money, I rarely go out of my way to do anything. Part of the problem is—I rarely have something tangible to give.

So, let’s change that. There are estimated to be 2,300 homeless people in Sacramento county. 2,300 homeless people! That my friends, is a problem. And while it’s easy to point fingers at local government and whine and complain, our energy would most certainly be better spent elsewhere. Our energy would be better spent doing something.

How many times have you seen a homeless person standing along a freeway exit, or wandering around a parking lot, or standing outside a grocery store? How many times have you avoided eye contact while muttering, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash.” I’ve done it, a lot. Too often.

And I want to change that.

It’s a small step, but my car is now stocked with bags of necessities to give to people in need, and if you’re looking to spread some hope this holiday season (or any season), you are welcome to join me.

What’s in the bag:

-Toothbrush/toothpaste
-Bar of soap
-Hand sanitizer
-Protein bar
-Bottled water
-First Aid kit
-List of Sacramento homeless shelters/resources
-Card with John 3:16 written inside

I got everything at Target and probably spent $6 on each bag. I’m going to keep my car stocked with five bags at a time, three in the trunk and two in my glove box for easy reach.

Whether you live in Sacramento or not, chances are your hometown is full of people in need. While my heart aches for the people affected by hurricane Sandy, and the people of Haiti, and anyone else suffering from a tragedy, my heart also aches for the people right here in my city. There is hunger and homelessness and human trafficking and other devastating things happening right here, right now. Sometimes these problems seem too big to tackle. Where do I start? What can I do? Will I even make a difference?

And the answer is yes. You can make a difference. You will make a difference. To one person or ten people or a hundred people. You get to decide.

Today, let’s start with hope for the homeless, and see where it takes us.

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27 Responses to hope for the homeless.

  1. Christine says:

    I’m a big animal lover, and I always used to carry dog bones in a tupperware in my car and ziploc bags of dog food to give to homeless people with dogs. Love this idea–although much less practical living in a big city without a car! Volunteering this weekend with Hurricane Sandy, might have to think of something like this that I could easily carry with me to help people out during the verrrrrry cold weather in NYC! Way to keep living your intentions, Ashlee–always an inspiration xo
    Christine´s last blog post ..First impressions of South America

  2. Annie says:

    I absolutely love this idea. A few years ago, my husband and I met and befriended a homeless man in our town, and since then, we’ve tried to keep $5 McDonald’s gift cards in our glove compartment to pass out at intersections and give to those in need. I know McDonald’s isn’t the healthiest option, but there’s one on every corner, and in our experience, many of those we meet often just want a warm cup of coffee and a place to sit (and many places won’t let you sit without purchasing something). Thanks for promoting such a great idea, especially today. What a powerful, practical way to make a difference!
    Annie´s last blog post ..seeking: book club members.

  3. Claire says:

    Gift cards are a great idea for people living in the city! Small, and easy to keep in your purse. Thanks for doing this, Ashlee! I really appreciate it!! So does Sacramento!
    Claire´s last blog post ..All About The "Getting"

  4. dahlila says:

    This is a great idea! I LOVE adding socks too. Especially this time of year. Also, those tiny rain slickers that come in a tiny bag. Shopping at the Dollar store is great too.
    I keep dog leashes & collars I’ve found while out walking my own dogs in the car too. All these things are easy to keep in the car & easy to hand out.
    thank you for sharing, d xo

    • Ashlee says:

      The Dollar Store IS great. I was just in there today to buy supplies for another holiday bag project, and couldn’t believe how much stuff they have!

  5. Sarabell says:

    This is such an awesome idea! There have been a few times where I wanted to help someone but didn’t have any cash/didn’t feel comfortable giving them cash. I’ve just had a gut feeling before, that maybe this person really did need help but might not get far with money… would perhaps use it for the gambling/drinking/drugs that got that particular person in the position they were in (in my old town, that was almost always the case. Homeless people would be for change all day, then go into the nearest gas station/liquor store and buy one of the tiny shot bottles to hold them over until the next day). I have purchased food for people/families before (Little Caesar’s has large pizzas for just $5, a great way to feel a family in need for cheap one night!) but I love the idea of having something already ready for someone who might need it on a day I don’t have cash or am running late and can’t run into the store to buy them something. I will definitely start making these!
    Sarabell´s last blog post ..Getting There…

    • Ashlee says:

      I know the feeling you’re describing. I try not to be judgmental when it comes to giving money, but it’s really hard not to sometimes. Let me know how your bags turn out!

  6. michelle says:

    What a great idea, you’re starting a movement! Spread the love 🙂

  7. Tay says:

    Wow, such a great idea! There are so many people homeless people in my city, but sometimes I am at a loss for what I can do for them.
    Tay´s last blog post ..currently…

  8. Sandra S. says:

    This is AWESOME. I’m gonna try to do this…thank you for the encouragement & motivation =)
    Sandra S.´s last blog post ..On Trust and Love

  9. Gina says:

    Such a great idea, Ashlee! I’m jumping on board. 🙂
    Gina´s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday: More Wedding Day Pictures

  10. Camilla says:

    this is so simple and so brilliant. i need to do this. i love the card with the verse as well.

    you always inspire me to be a better human.
    Camilla´s last blog post ..Too Many Pictures of Coffee

  11. Pingback: Five on Friday v5 « Gina Marie Rose

  12. kate says:

    this is an amazing idea! i just donated to an organization called project night night for homeless children at shelters, but this is something that so easy to do – and i could definitely keep bags in my car. thanks for the inspiration!
    kate´s last blog post ..Hugs for Henry…

  13. Latrina says:

    Yes! I stumbled upon something very similar on Pinterest as well. I talked to my husband about it and we both thought it was such a perfect idea… we are both originally from the south and the homelessness there isn’t as prominent. But when moving to Sacramento, it was like a completely different world. Seeing people sleeping on the streets is something I never saw back home… it’s heart-breaking. And something I am still trying to get “use” to — at least however much as one can.

    But this is such a great idea & I LOVE how you included a list of near-by homeless shelters & a quote. So so beautiful.

  14. Cara says:

    You’ve inspired me. I am doing this tomorrow with a gift card that I have to Target. I always feel so unprepared when someone approaches me and now I’ll have something to give.
    Cara´s last blog post ..Colorful Front Doors

  15. Tiana says:

    This is awesome. You know why?!
    Because I was totally just thinking about doing this exact thing. I went looking for ideas in town and have to make a list and figure out how many I want to make. But it’s totally going to rock! Funny how God just spreads ideas all over the place to glorify Himself. There is going to be some serious love and blessings being poured out this season.

  16. Shannon says:

    In order to progress in my son’s martial arts school you must complete a community service project (for each belt). He came up with the same idea and it has become a staple in my car. We added baby wipes and kleenex. Love the first aid kit and toothbrush. We will add those to our rotation along with the McDonald’s card and socks. My sweet children with such giving hearts never feel incapable of helping when we come across someone in need now. Thanks for sharing.
    Shannon´s last blog post ..Hero Husband ate a sea creature

  17. Pingback: Small Care Packets for the Homeless

  18. Your blog was inspiration for our new project to create “car care packages” of toiletry items that members of the church keep in their cars to give out. We purchased bulk shampoo/liquid soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, Q-tips, cotton washcloths, hairbrushes/mirrors, and first aid kids and each bag costs us about $4.40 to create.

    Christ Church Lucketts
    14861 New Valley Church Road, Leesburg, VA 20176

  19. Kim Woods says:

    Hello! Do you have a contact phone number for Claire? I work for a Charter School organization that serves students whom are homeless. We would like to be able to provide hygiene kits to them. Thank you, Kim

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