1. Keep the homeless ambulatory by providing wound and foot care.
If a homeless person is unable to walk as a result of infected wounds or foot rot, then they will have declining access to food, water and hygiene. This is often the quickest path of demise for a homeless person in the extreme weather months. With antibiotic wipes to clean wounds, antibiotic cream to treat the topical infections and bandages to keep the wounds clean; these injuries will be less likely to progress to the point where a person cannot walk to get food and water and minimally clean themselves.
Another common reason homeless become immobile, is their feet literally rot. Anti-fungal cream for foot related fungus’s, foot powder to draw moisture out of the socks and footwear and clean socks to minimize the infection spread; will provide basic treatment for these issues.
2. Prevent diseases by providing hygiene items to combat lice, fleas and other pests.
Simple items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste\brush, comb\brush and deodorant will allow a homeless person both stave off skin related diseases as well as incrementally improve their emotional health by simply being clean.
3. Prevent immediate starvation by providing non-perishable nutrition.
The most commonly donated item to the homeless is restaurant leftovers; but often this food goes rotten and is not available if a homeless person is not able to walk any significant distances. Items like water, Pop Tarts, Vienna Sausages, apple sauce allow a person to store these items when needed or often share with others.
4. Provide protection against weather exposure like extreme cold or heat.
The most difficult items to collect and distribute to the homeless are seasonal specific clothing items; and the most requested are clean socks. That said, clothes for a homeless person will only stay wearable for 14 to 30 days; the clothes get wet and freeze, are infected by pests and rodents or are often stolden. Almost every homeless person that I see will ask for adult sized t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, coats, hats and gloves.
Clearly blankets and tents will provide some warmth and protection against the elements; and one can not have enough chemical hand and body warmers when the temperature drops below 30 degress.
5. Provide miscellaneous items to incrementally improve the lives of those homeless.
There are some less obvious items that will advance the life of a homeless person:
· Bags and backpacks
· Used eye glasses
· Camping equipment (eg tarps, sleeping bags)
· CTA Passes
· Books and magazines