We do this in the fall, and have people bring donated items in October. First, we contact area homeless shelters to see what they need, and then put out the request. We were hoping to get a box or two to each one, and ended up making several trips! Second, be specific in what you are requesting. One easy way to specify for items that will help those on the street in the winter is for people to thinking of what they would take camping. We had a ton of clothes come in, but only 1 box worth of dress clothes and a few summer items that we are going to take this spring. The dress clothes went to a battered women’s shelter.
Here is what we suggested:
sleeping bags, backpacks and duffle bags, coats (not fancy – that puts the homeless at risk for being robbed), shoes for walking, new underwear/socks, sweatshirts and longsleeve knit shirts, jeans and casual pants. We also accepted toiletries and food items. It is very important to find out what each shelter wants ahead of time, how items need to be delivered, and when someone can deliver the items. No two shelters operated alike, and they each had different needs. I know that the workers were surprised to see that we were actually bringing in needed items. The week we delivered the items, the weather had just turned cold in the evenings, and I know that the sleeping bags were quickly put to use!