helping the homeless

Helping homeless people this holiday season (and any time of the year, really) starts with reusing all those spaghetti jars you've been recycling.

On my way to work each day I pass three-five people begging for money.

Some attempt to wash my windshield or dance to earn change; others are crippled and hold signs. I smile at each of them with direct eye contact, remembering when a homeless person visited my college and mentioned the isolation he felt because most people he encountered would not look him in the eye.

Occasionally I give them food or something to drink from in my car.

But more often than not? I pass them by, being generous only with my smile.

Digging Deep about My Own Feelings Towards the Homeless

It is so easy to not give to people on the streets, especially when there is only a two-minute window of discomfort I need to endure until the light turns a liberating green and I can pretend again as though life is easy for all of us.

But life is not easy for all of us; for some of us the experience of dis-ease is in the present, for others it has occurred in the past, and no one is ever sure of what their future holds.

I have seen many discussions around the internet about homeless people, including the recent one about the police officer who purchased an expensive pair of boots for a homeless man who then continued to go shoeless, presumably because he sold the shoes.

It appears that there are two diametrically opposed viewpoints between people who will not give to homeless people due to the reasons that they may be homeless (addictions and laziness are often cited), and people who are very generous in their dealings with people on the street, such as that police officer.

I have had to dig deep to figure out my own feelings.

While I am sure that there is a significant portion of people on the streets due to their own vices and choices, I do not doubt that they are in as much need as people who find themselves homeless due to other circumstances.

I pass people in the heat of summer with sweat pouring down their faces, I see them curled up under bridges on cold cement with all of their belongings surrounding them like a buffer from the world, and I see them drenched from rain.

My feeling is that anyone who is willing to beg during these conditions needs the money and food in my car much more than I do.

Are their handwritten signs always an accurate representation of their lives? Probably not. Do some homeless perhaps dress in a manner to appear to be more destitute than they are? It’s absolutely possible. But aside from any of my doubts or yours, if nothing else, I am sure that any person on the street begging for money could use some hope.

If nothing else, I am sure that any person on the street begging for money could use some hope. Click To Tweet

My Spaghetti Jar of Hope Idea

I’ve had an idea for many months now and am finally executing it.

Instead of giving money or a granola bar to the homeless on my way to work (or not giving at all), I decided to give a package of items with a message of hope.

What better container to use than all of the spaghetti jars we have cleaned and saved over the year? Last week I took five spaghetti jars and filled them each with the following items:

  • a hand warmer that works for up to 10 hours (from Target’s $1 section)
  • a disposable razor
  • a travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  • a granola bar
  • three Slim Jims
  • Blistex
  • a piece of chocolate
  • and a candy cane

I wrapped each jar neck with a festive ribbon, but not before including a miniature card with a message of hope. Throughout the month of December, I will be giving these out to anyone I see begging for money (as long as it will not hold up traffic).

I realize that my spaghetti jars will not save the lives of the homeless that I give them to, nor will they make a significant impact on their financial situation. What I hope to accomplish is to bring a smile and some hope to their otherwise dreary circumstances.

After all, hope could be the difference between another year on the road versus spending the rest of their lives there.

Do you give to homeless on the streets? Are there other charities you donate to?   

13 replies
  1. Shannon-ReadyForZero
    Shannon-ReadyForZero says:

    I am blown away. What a beautiful thing to do! I always give food if I have some in my bag, but not often do I give money since I rarely carry cash. I live in San Francisco and see a lot of homeless people every day. I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try a similar project. Great for you, that’s a really heart-warming idea.

  2. Jessica N
    Jessica N says:

    This is honestly the greatest idea I have ever encountered in regards to dealing with the homeless. We are so easy to overlook, or label every homeless as a junky, when many of them are veterans, or simply too sick to make a living. I think I’m going to do something similar, minus the razor (because the bums around here get drunk and violent), and adding a can of ravioli (with the easy opening tops). They may not be able to heat it up, but if they leave the can next to them in the daytime while begging they can at least get a warm meal, and it will be something better than trash food. I’ve spent years giving my food to others especially since I came from a country FILLED worse than the US with poverty. In the end of the day all we can do is pray for them and hope they will use what we give them the right way (instead of trading it for crack, which happens more often than you think with just about ANYTHING hey have.)

  3. Amy Ledesma
    Amy Ledesma says:

    I do give.I encourage everyone to give if the have it. I only give money. I never have very much just 5 or the most $10 As a person with severe allergys I know what its like and I dont know that the person Im giving to might not have a ,wheat,nut,milk,fruit allergy so I give money.I also am dyslexic so I know how hard it can be to get and keep a job when you struggle with a learning disability.If it was not for my sister sitting and teaching me at 30 how to count back change I never could of kept a job. Im blessed .Others are far worse off.Your a kind person and I like what you are doing.

  4. Untemplater
    Untemplater says:

    I loved this article. Homelessness is a huge problem in SF and it’s something I’ve had conflicting feelings about for a while. Some homeless people are grateful to have food, while others will flat out refuse and insist on getting cash. There’s also a lot of homeless people here who are drug abusers or the last free riding remnants of occupy Wallstreet who make a lot of people less willing to help the homeless in general even though there are those who are simply down on their luck.

    I think your action of spreading hope in spaghetti jars is awesome and so perfect for the holiday season. Inspirational!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Finding Hope In A Spaghetti Jar by Frugal Confessions. Amanda dives into the hard issue of homelessness, which is something I’ve had many emotions about myself. San Francisco has had a lot of problems with homelessness for all the years I’ve lived here, and they aren’t getting any better. We’ve all been approached by pan handlers on the streets and in our cars and it’s hard not to wonder how they got into their current situation, if they’re legitimately down on their luck or even faking it. Amanda has been spreading generous messages of hope and is a fabulous inspiration, especially in the spirit of the holidays. […]

  2. […] See the article here: Frugal Confessions – Spreading Hope in a Spaghetti Jar […]

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