How to talk about homelessness with your children and create hygiene kits as giveaways

Talk About Homelessness with Your Children

Homelessness is an issue plaguing cities and neighborhoods across the country. Children may see a person who is homeless or asking for money and ask you about the situation. Here are some suggestions on how to answer your child’s questions and what you can do to make an impact.

Answer the child’s questions directly, honestly, with empathy and compassion.

  • When you speak about the person you see, use person-centered phrases such as “the man who is homeless” rather than “the homeless.” This emphasizes the person instead of the situation.
  • Answer the child’s questions directly. Be short and concise. Don’t elaborate if it is not needed.
  • Homelessness is a situation, and means that a person has no place to sleep, to eat, to shower and keep clean, or to keep their belongings

Speak about social issues that can cause homelessness
There are many reasons that people become and remain homeless. Here are a few:

  • A person has no money to maintain a home – a home costs money.
  • A person may not be connected to family/friends to help them.
  • A person may have a mental illness. A mental illness is when a person’s brain is not working the way it is supposed to.
  • A person may not have money to maintain a home because they lost a job or got really sick and couldn’t pay their medical bills.

Avoid Using Homelessness as an Example
Don’t attempt to use a person who is homeless as an example of what could happen if the child doesn’t stay in school, go to college, get a job or uses drugs.

 

How Your Family Can Take Action

Your family can help those who are homeless in practical ways. Below are a few ideas to get you started. Have an idea of your own? Please reach out to our volunteer department to let us know how you want to help us Do The Most Good for the homeless in Chicagoland. 

Create Hygiene Kits
Many people who are homeless lack basic necessities. Filling large resealable plastic bags with some basics can be helpful. Please contact our volunteer department to get a full list of items needed and where to deliver assembled kits. Here's some ideas of supplies to collect to create hygiene kits:

  • Nonperishable snack items (granola bars, dried fruit snacks, nuts), water
  • Hats, scarves, gloves, warm clothing, socks, undergarnents
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste, unscented lotion, soap, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, brush/comb, female hygiene products
  • Handi-wipes, hand sanitizer, basic first aid kit, nail care kit
  • Bus/train pass, Pre-paid phone cards, notes of encouragement, children’s drawings, books, Homeless Kit Cards

Host a Supply Drive
Gather items most needed by a person facing homelessness: blankets, warm clothing and outerwear, socks, toiletries, etc. Please contact our volunteer department to get a full list of items needed.

Help Feed the Homeless
Your family can volunteer at a homeless shelter, bringing cheer to individuals and families in need or pack lunches for The Salvation Army Mobile Feeding and Homeless Outreach unit, please contact: METVolunteer@usc.salvationarmy.org.