What to Give the Homeless for Christmas

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Prince William recently spent a cold night sleeping on the street to “experience” being homeless. He did so as part of his support for the British homeless charity Centrepoint.

Cities around the world are populated with homeless. Many of us pass them on the streets and experience their pleas for help.

A friend of mine, Doc Gurley, who works with the homeless population in her city has some great tips for giving to the homeless. She has a list of gifts that often costs less than $5, but are better than simply giving the homeless your change.

Doc Gurley reminds those of us who would give to the homeless to remember safety first - for you and your gift recipient. The safest and best way to gift a homeless street person is to do what you already do - give small gifts to the folks you predictably pass on your usual routes. Keep a gift handy and, instead of bending over to drop a buck in a cup, put your bag on the ground and keep going. Be discrete. The gift should be given in plain bags with a card ("From Me, To You") tucked inside.

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What do you give? You give hope, joy and inspiration with ANY small gift, including that old standby, money. Her practical gift tips include:

1) Give the gift of warmth. Knit watch caps costs only a few dollars at many stores. Stick to gender-neutral colors. Same holds true for mittens and scarves. Heat-shield blankets (also widely available in camping sections, for approx. $3 each at Target) can save a life - especially now with winter settling in with a vengeance.

2) Give the gift of protection - A sturdy plastic poncho. A nice Intruder Alarm combines a piercing alarm-lock to protect valuables, and an LED light, all into one small key-chain-sized device. A clean, old blanket or gently used coat.

3) Give the gift of health. Two pairs of sturdy new socks allows the homeless to swap them out when one pair gets wet. A small first aid kit, or hygiene items.

4) Give the gift of joy. One high-quality, individually-wrapped chocolate.

5) Consider making your gift-bag a gift too. A sturdy cloth bag, or a reusable heavy-plastic rain-proof one, with a small treat inside, is a gift all by itself.

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