Make Care and Comfort Bags for the Homeless

by Dorothy Reinhold on December 26, 2015

Print This Post Print This Post How to make care and Comfort Packages for the homeless. Sometimes they're called

How to make Care and Comfort Packages for the homeless. Sometimes they’re called “Blessing Bags” or “On the Go Bags” or “Socks of Love” (if they’re packed into new socks). Something to eat, hygiene items and socks offer comfort and dignity.

My family and I were privileged to have had a merry Christmas and a happy, fulfilling holiday season, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

Not everyone is so lucky, and evidence of it is unfortunately all around us, as there are many homeless people in our greater Los Angeles communities. We see them panhandling at traffic lights, camped out in public spaces, sitting at our outdoor mall areas, ironically asking for just a little in an environment surrounded by so much.

I wish I could help them all, but it isn’t possible or practical. I can’t solve the issue, but perhaps our Care Bags can provide a measure of comfort and dignity.

A year ago my son suggested we keep a box of protein granola bars in my car, so that when stopped at a traffic light we could give them out to whoever was panhandling, so they could have a bite to eat. We deliberately chose a food that could be in the car without needing refrigeration, so it would be always at the ready.

But more recently I had the notion that more than sweet food was needed. What about hygiene items and more substantial food?

I gathered the unused collection of little amenities we have collected from various hotel stays, bought some travel size toothbrush/toothpaste combos, and some cans of hearty beef stew and spoons to eat it with.

Here’s what I put in my first care bags:

  • Shampoo, conditioner
  • Body wash, little soaps
  • Mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Skin lotion
  • Dinty Moore Hearty Beef Stew (pop top lid) and plastic spoon
  • Protein granola bar
  • An apple, banana and orange (if I have just been to the grocery store and am on the way home)

When I build the next bags, I will consider adding:

Skippy SinglesToiletries

  • A small terrycloth washcloth (could be used wet, or as a small towel to dry off)
  • Moist towelettes
  • Deodorant
  • Chapstick
  • Tissues
  • Comb


  • Socks
  • Plastic poncho
  • Gloves
  • Beanie hat


  • Bottle of water
  • Little cans of tuna (pop top lid)
  • Skippy Peanut Butter Singles
  • Beef jerky or Slim Jims
  • Vienna Sausages (can with pop top lid)
  • Applesauce cups
  • Trail mix
  • Packets of nuts
  • Cracker packets (peanut butter crackers?)
  • Instant coffee in individual packets
  • Hot chocolate in individual packets (get the kind that is made with hot water)


  • Handful of plastic zip-top bags
  • Small pad of paper and pencil/pen
  • Gift card to local grocery store
  • $10 bill

We’ve handed these care packages out to the man who makes his home at the bus stop, to the couple who loiter outside the gas station 24/7, and to a young woman who initially asked for gas money, but when I asked her if she was hungry, she demurred, saying, “No, I’m fine.” “Really?” I asked? “Yes, I’m pretty hungry,” she finally admitted.

We’re certainly not the only ones who have been thinking this way. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find lots of examples. Some have dubbed them “Blessing Bags,” or “On the Go Bags.” There are even Pinterest boards filled with examples and lists of what to put in them.

Making a care and comfort package for the homeless on ShockinglyDelicious.comSome, like me, put them in a zipper-top plastic bag; others put them in little fabric shopping bags, or even tube socks (calling them “Socks of Love.”). Backpacks are another handy container, as are old lunch boxes or lunch sacks. Some people even use an empty, clean 2-liter plastic bottle.

Go to source: Ask the unhoused what they want & need

My friend Ray Richmond did me one better. He actually went out on Thanksgiving and asked people living on the street what they really wanted/needed. He then assembled 40 holiday bags and personally gave them to the local homeless during Christmas week. He said he chose to interact with them rather than writing a check or making a donation of food or time (which, he noted, are also great options).

Ray Richmond's homeless comfort packageThey gave him a list of needs:

  • Body wipes (because showers can be scarce)
  • Chap Stick
  • Socks socks socks
  • Soap, exfoliant soap, shampoo, moisturizing lotion
  • Mini sewing kit
  • Q-tips
  • Ibuprofen
  • Breath mints, floss
  • Nail clippers
  • Something to warm them
  • Maybe a little treat

“This is stuff we all take for granted,” he said. “I don’t post this to play up my bonafides as a good person or anything, because in truth the jury remains out. I do so instead to inspire others who are able to do the same. These people are not losers or lazy or necessarily mentally ill (though often that’s a part of it). They are much of the time simply folks who have had a bad break and lack the family, friends and resources to keep them in the food-and-shelter basics. I’m privileged to be able to help a little bit. But it never feels like enough.” As usual, Ray is right.

Make bags specifically for unhoused women

Homeless comfort package for a womanMy friend Nena Lauerman reached out to her Facebook friends with inspiration for a package designed especially for a homeless woman. “This is a great way to spread the love this season. Purses are great or an old backpack. We all have much to be grateful for,” she noted.

Indeed we do.

January 2016 addendum

Luke and his cousin Lily make backpacks for homelessInspired by this post and bothered by the number of homeless people they saw in Center City (Philadelphia) during the holidays, big-hearted cousins Luke, 11, and Lily, 10, went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of backpacks and filled them with essentials.

Luke hands out backpacks in PhiladelphiaLuke returned to the city the next day and gave them out…

3 cousins handing out homeless care backpacks in Philadelphia…along with his cousins Sam and Lily. These are some young folks who are making a difference in the world. I salute them and am grateful for their compassion.

Homeless care packages put together by Jenni FieldJenni Field, who blogs and teaches at Pastry Chef Online, created her bags out of Clif Bars, tissues, socks, breath mints, Chap Stick and Wet Ones.

If you have more ideas of what else is needed in a care package like this, or another efficient way to package it, I welcome your suggestions in the comments below.


{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Oakley @ Frieda's December 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

Right after Thanksgiving, I helped my friends made over 300 bags to go to different corners of the LA and Orange counties.People donated stuff and even money for some of us to buy more stuff since they couldn’t be there in person. I have a trunk full still. So far I have given out a few bags. I always have at least one on the floor of the passenger seat for easy access however, most times I couldn’t safely pull over.


Dorothy Reinhold December 28, 2015 at 4:29 pm

That has been a problem for me at times, too. If the people are on the corner and the light isn’t red, you can’t stop or you risk being rear-ended.


Elizabeth December 28, 2015 at 12:23 am

What a lovely thing to do, but such a shame that there aren’t facilities up and running to provide these things already. We have a fantastic Salvation Army where we live who deal with food and essentials parcels. Local churches, schools and every day volunteers donate and help run it.


Linda (Meal Planning Maven) December 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm

What a beautiful project for the holidays…thank you for sharing!


justine @ Full Belly SIsters December 27, 2015 at 1:55 pm

What a thoughtful and caring idea!


Debi @ Life Currents December 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm

What a wonderful idea. I usually don’t make care packages, giving instead just as I get things to give. One of my favorite tips is to give toothbrushes you get from the dentist to the shelters. Doesn’t cost anything, but helps. My friend goes every Friday to make lunch bags at our local shelter. So wonderful to hear how people help out.


Katerina December 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm

What a great and thoughtful idea! Thanks for sharing!


Divya @ Divya's Culinary Journey December 27, 2015 at 5:25 am

You have thoughtfully put together all the ideas for making the care packages for the homeless! Thanks for sharing this inspiring post!


Dorothy Reinhold December 28, 2015 at 4:31 pm

You’re welcome Divya.


Pearl November 6, 2018 at 7:08 pm

Where did you buy the travelling soap/toothpaste. I am planning to do the same thing but I am having a hard time to find them.


Dorothy Reinhold November 7, 2018 at 8:56 am

I found them in the travel section at CVS drugstore. They have an area where they have bins of small-size items suitable for travel. Good luck!


Joanne/WineLady Cooks December 26, 2015 at 12:23 pm

This is a terrific post. A great idea to have the kids help with this project.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Thank you Joanne! I agree it would make an awesome troop project, too.


Judy @ My Well Seasoned Life December 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Dorothy what an incredibly smart and caring idea. Thanks so much.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:32 pm

You’re welcome. It’s doable by everyone from kids to seniors, and I think it would make an excellent project!


Manila Spoon December 26, 2015 at 11:29 am

What a great idea for the holiday season and so great that it can help and touch many lives, too! Thanks for sharing!


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:32 pm

You’re welcome! I hope you can do something akin to it in your own community, if needed.


Diane December 26, 2015 at 10:43 am

Dorothy you have my deepest admiration and respect! Homelessness is such a confusing issue. How can our society with all it’s social welfare nets let so many slip down to the streets? These gift ideas are a perfect way to effect positive change by showing concrete action and adding a measure of care into the lives of those somehow passed by in so many ways!


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Thank you Diane. Well said.


Jeanne @JollyTomato December 26, 2015 at 10:36 am

Great ideas here! I just bought a multi-pack of socks with the idea of using them for care packages; and these are some great suggestions of other things to add.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Socks seem to be #1 for what they want and need!


Jamie December 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

Dorothy, this is wonderful. Sharing…


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for spreading the idea around Jamie!


Patricia@FreshFoodinaFlash December 26, 2015 at 9:33 am

What a wonderful Christmas message. You are an inspiration to others and to me to do more. Instead of tossing things or bringing to the Goodwill, I bring used clothing, backpacks, etc. directly to Skid Row or the #DowntownWomensCenter when I am headed to downtown Los Angeles.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm

I like your idea to bring things directly. No need for a middleman.


KC the Kitchen Chopper December 26, 2015 at 8:46 am

What a wonderful way to make the day for someone in need!


Cathy | SHe Paused 4 Thought December 26, 2015 at 8:41 am

What a fabulous post. I love the purse idea.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm

I do think the purse idea is inspired.


Janette@CulinaryGinger December 26, 2015 at 8:24 am

This is a great post and idea.


Dorothy Reinhold December 26, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Thank you Janette.


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