Sunday, May 27, 2012

Including Kids in Service

Two summers ago, when Logan was five years old, we met a homeless man, named Paul. It was a brief meeting, but it had a world of impact on Logan. After talking for a few minutes, Paul and I realized, we had a shared acquaintance - my neighbor, a social worker at the local men's shelter.

The idea of homelessness had popped up many times. Living in a city, we see people pushing carts around, hanging out under street bridges and occasionally on a bench. Logan had asked endless questions about their life living on the streets. After seeing Paul, he wanted to solve the problem of homelessness. He suggested we put signs up around the city showing homeless people they could come to our house. Logan is a sensitive child and feels things very deeply and thoroughly. He thought about how Paul had to sleep with his hands under his head because he did not have a pillow.

In lieu of signs pointing to our house, I reached out to my social worker neighbor to ask what we could do to help Paul specifically. She suggested we put together a few items he could use - anything from denture cream to a gift card to McDonald's. Logan came with me to choose the items, adding some things he thought were important.

I took Logan to the men's shelter to give the bag of items to my friend who would then give it to Paul. We kept track of Paul for awhile, he did get a job and a bed at a motel. Unfortunately, our neighbor felt sure that it would not last. He had substance abuse issues that would keep him from staying on track. Logan seemed to move on from his homeless crusade, and I did not want to open up discussions with a five year old that were even too hard for me to understand.

Last week, my friend Wendi sent me this website about making bags for people who are homeless. It comes from children seeing a need and wanting to help. Take a look, see if it fits for your family and give it a try. I think it is always important and safe to work with a local agency or church so that you know that your kind of help is needed and appreciated. No sense going to a lot of trouble for something that may not be used.

Blessing Bags

Other suggestions ideas of things to include or not include (from the blog comments):

- plastic rain poncho or large heavyweight garbage bag
- those extras from takeout - cutlery, napkin, hand wipes, condiments
- facecloth or small towel
- pkgs of cup-a-soup, coffee and tea
- collapsible drinking vessel for easy storage
- whistle so they can call for help if necessary
- small first aid kit
- any of the small travel sized items you can buy

Don't Include:
mouthwash - don't include if it has alcohol content
gift cards - sort of like money so they could be traded for alcohol/drugs

Also - someone suggested putting the items in a new/gently used backpack instead of a plastic bag.

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