Despite the declining economy and impact of the recession, many individuals, families and businesses have continued to donate to their local homeless shelters. Because funding for shelters has been cut in most states, the amount of money that shelters have available to buy clothing and toiletry items has decreased substantially. Thanks to the generosity of donors, many shelters for single women have been able to supplement their supply of clothing and toiletry items with donations received from local members of the community. Since many donors have never lived in, or visited a homeless shelter for single women, I put together this guide to help donors understand the types of toiletry and clothing items that are the most practical and useful for shelters housing single women.
Clothing and Shoes
Homeless shelters for single women are constantly in need of good used clothing and shoes in all sizes. When making a donation, think to yourself, “Would I wear this?”. If an item is in good condition, but isn’t your style, donate it! If an item is dirty, stained, or has holes, toss it. If you would be embarrassed to wear an item in public, please do not donate it. Homeless women don’t have the luxury of being picky about what they wear, but they still care about how they look.
Practical and useful donations that homeless shelters for single women can always use include: large t-shirts and sweatshirts, sweatpants, stretch pants and leggings, pajama pants, tank tops and nightgowns. New (not used!) cotton underwear, socks, and sports bras are always in demand. Sneakers and casual slip on shoes are always needed. As are coats, hats, scarves, boots and gloves in the fall and winter months.
Two Important Caveats to Remember When Donating Clothing and Shoes
Homeless women have to eat whatever they can find on the streets. As a result, many homeless women are plus size and need larger sized clothing. Don’t worry if you think an item is too large for women! Homeless women are very resourceful and can easily alter clothing that is too large. Clothing that is too small is not useful.
Donate Items That are Practical and Easy to Wash
Fancy dresses, high heel shoes, silk blouses, and wool trouser pants are not practical for homeless women who have limited access to laundry facilities and are on their feet most of the day. Donate clothing made of natural fibers if possible. Cotton, polyester and blends are preferable. Remember that clothing you donate should be easily laundered in a washing machine, or by hand. “Dry clean only” items are not practical for homeless women. Don’t bother donating them.
Shelters are always in need of basic toiletry items. The most practical and useful toiletry items to donate to shelters housing single homeless women include: shampoo and conditioner, body wash and bar soap, body lotion, scented body sprays, razors, deodorant, and toothpaste and toothbrushes. Sanitary pads, tampons, adult diapers, and laundry detergent are always welcome donations. Keep in mind that homeless women are not brand specific. Any brand of personal care product you can donate will be used.
Many shelters for homeless women also accept donations of makeup and nail polish. Most women enjoy being pampered, and little “extras”, like makeup and nail polish are a confidence booster and good “pick me up”. The dollar store is a great place to pick up cheap donations of toiletry products and makeup, just watch the expiration dates!
If in Doubt, Check it Out!
Please call before visiting your local shelter to find out what types of donations they accept. Each shelter serves a different population and each population has different needs. Shelters for single women don’t need diapers, and Domestic Violence shelters don’t need men’s deodorant (unless your local Domestic Violence shelter houses men who have been abused). Each agency has different rules about the types of items that staff can accept from the public. Call first, so you know what to bring and when’s the best time to drop it off.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved at your local shelter. Remember it is not the size of your donation, but the usefulness and practicality of your donation that counts!