Hope for the Homeless: A Challenge

by Lesley on October 24, 2012 · 7 comments

in lessons learned,make-you-think

I don’t know what your town looks like but in Sacramento there is a large homeless population. When I worked in midtown, people asked me for money at least 2-3 times a day and the numbers grew during my time there.

Of course Sacramento wasn’t the first place I saw poverty. In China there are a surprising number of people  begging on the streets, so much so that after a month living there we started becoming desensitized. When Jonathan and I were visiting Tianammen Square near the end of our trip, I literally stepped OVER a woman and her child who were laying on the sidewalk near a subway exit.

I had all kinds of reasons for doing so. You probably recognize some of them:

I’ve already given.

I don’t have any cash.

They’re doing this because they know tourists will be particularly compelled to give.

She’s using her child and I won’t reward her for doing so. (Talk about judging, right?!)

Stepping over that family is a decision I have always regretted. I’ve never been able to get that moment out of my head…that moment that I did nothing for a woman and a child. Since then I’ve made it a general rule that so long as my safety isn’t put at risk, I will never ignore vulnerable women and children on the streets. I will always do something. Because regardless of why they are there, THEY ARE THERE.

But, it’s easier said than done, right? Especially when you’re waiting at a red light with a crying baby and no cash. 

Hope for the Homeless is a project my friend Claire is putting together in the Sacramento area. I’m really excited to participate, and hope you might also considering being part even if you don’t live in my area. Hope for the Homeless came about because Claire felt a tug on her heart she refused to ignore. Combine that tug with a little bit of Pinterest inspiration and an idea was born! What if she made bags of goodies to give out to people she came across in her neighborhood, on street corners and freeway exits?

What if people in the Sacramento area pledged to make 2,300 bags before Christmas? Just think of the difference we could make in a person’s life! A bag says: you matter. you belong. you are not forgotten. you are worth something.

Plus, for those of you who are uncomfortable with giving cash, this idea still lets you help someone in a very tangible way.

I know, I know. Claire doesn’t mess around. 2,300 bags is a LOT of bags. Which is exactly why we need your help. Please consider getting involved.

If you DO make a pledge, here are some helpful pieces of advice:

1. Decide on a budget per bag. Mine was about $5. You may decide you only have a $1 budget. That’s ok! One dollar could buy a pair of socks, or a few granola bars. That’s better than nothing.

2. Originally I planned to coupon hunt so that I could cram as much as possible into a $5 bag, but to be honest, the extra work just made me keep putting off the project. I decided for this first round to not mess with coupons. My hope is I’ll start picking up things on sale as I see them so as to always have a little stockpile of items.

3. Consider adding a tag or note to your bag. I found the cute tag (above) on one of my favorite sites, 6th Street Design School, and repurposed it for this project. Free, easy and cute! I wrote a little bible verse on the back and called it done.

A peak at our bags:

In our bags: a package of Kleenex, a chapstick, mini-first aid kid, Zone bar, a few mini toiletry items I’ve picked up at hotels.

More ideas: socks, feminine products, tea or hot cocoa, bars of soap, piece of fruit, a bottle of water, a rain poncho.

Make sure to pick items that won’t melt in a hot car and are seasonally appropriate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what else could be included in the bags. Or, if you’ve done something like this before, what kind of reaction did you get? 

Update: After doing this a few times now, I tend to mostly stick to food items.

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You amaze and inspire me! I want to do this with you! I think MC would be a great place to organize one of these maybe in the spring since we're working on one for the holidays? May I share this idea with the leadership team?

Laura Bennet
Laura Bennet

What a great idea! I live in the Santa Cruz area where the homeless population is fairly substantial for our small towns. Just this weekend I was on my way home from a women's retreat and came across a homeless man. We had a few bags with apples, candy and Bible verses left over from the retreat so we gave him some. It felt like a great way to give something since I rarely have cash or food on hand. Thanks for the idea.


Great project, Lesley. I wrote on responding to homeless people at my blog today too, although it was just a one-on-one thing and not a wide scale project. Tim


Even though we just talked about this in person, thanks for the reminder, AGAIN. I can't wait to do this. I think I will invite Brett and Ev to join me in a trip to Target so it can be a family project ;)


Lesley, My Bible study has done this two times.... all of us girls brought lots of one item...ie toothpaste, socks, soap, gum...we also included a list of local churches and homeless shelters or places where they could go for help. We made a huge assembly line to make tons of bags. We each took like 15 bags and had them in our cars ready to give out. I still have two in my trunk that I need to move to the front for easier access. Thanks for this reminder. Looks like you had a nice little helper too :)

Sue Pasi
Sue Pasi

Hi Lesley, Every day I drive past at least 2-3 people on corners with signs asking for help. And I avoid looking at them and drive on by. I've heard of people who make bags, or are prepared with something to give. This is a wonderful idea. I don't live in Sacramento, I work in Portland, but the need is the same. I can't pledge a certain amount but I'm inspired more than ever to follow through and do this. Thanks for the inspiration. Aunt Sue


  1. […] you can put in these “sunshine bags” and I’ve included more ideas and a tutorial here. (This is such a fun project to do with your kids!) I love handing out a pre-made bag because it […]