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Assembling hygiene kits for people in need at Create the Change Day 2019


Begin with Basics

In many places across the U.S., the number of people without permanent homes is hitting an all-time high. Many are struggling not just to make ends meet, but to afford even the basics, like food, clean clothes, hygiene supplies, and decent shoes.

These kinds of basic goods are essential to good health. It might be difficult to imagine what it’s like to live without everyday items, but there are ways you can help make things better for people in need.

Ready to make a difference?

  • Download the Give Back App (iPhone | Android coming soon!) and find ways to help people get the basics they need near you
  • Create an account so you can favorite activities and causes, earn points and badges, track your hours, and see your impact
  • Use our our activity finder and choose Begin with Basics
  • Read on to learn more about this cause…

Checking this out for your kids?

We need your support to keep making great educational materials for young people, parents, and teachers.

Did you know…

people in the U.S. are homeless. (And the number is rising.)

About 34%
of people without homes don’t have a safe place to sleep.

of Americans struggle to afford basic needs.

of families are forced to cut back on food to afford everyday hygiene products, like soap. 

Girl Scouts assemble toiletry kits for people in need at Create the Change Day 2019

How can you help?

The housing crisis in the United States is a big deal, but even if you feel powerless, you have what it takes to make a difference now. 

  • Collect hygiene items. Even everyday items like soap and toothpaste can be too expensive for people living in poverty. You can work to collect as many travel-sized items as you can, or focus on one, through something like a Toothpaste Tuesday.   
  • Host a backpack drive. Many people without homes are forced to carry all their life’s belongings wherever they go. By collecting and donating backpacks, you can help them carry clothes, food and medications safely and more easily.
  • Donate diapers. It’s not just adults who are struggling with homelessness, but people of all ages – including babies. Help families out by creating baby gift baskets with essential items or donating diapers.
  • Create welcome home baskets. Moving into a permanent home after being unhoused is a reason to celebrate. Many local organizations gift “Welcome Home” baskets filled with all the basics. You can create them for individuals or for entire families
  • Volunteer at a local nonprofit. There are lots of ways to help nonprofits near you, including by doing laundry or even unloading and sorting donated items
  • Find a cause you love. Pick an issue or project in your community that speaks to you – and speak up. Start your search now.

You can also join us for our yearly Create the Change Day, an afternoon that shows just how fun and fulfilling giving back can be. See if we’re hosting an event near you, or get ideas for hosting your own.

We work with inspiring partners across the nation to help provide the basics to individuals and families. These are just some of them:

  • St. Francis House. From providing a warm meal to basic goods, St. Francis House works to give the poor and homeless community what they need to rebuild their lives. (Boston)
  • PATH. By helping the most vulnerable populations, PATH is paving the way to a future without homelessness. (Los Angeles)
  • Project WeHOPE. They help the underserved and homeless rebuild their lives by connecting them to resources and services they might be missing. (SF Bay Area)
  • Sacred Heart Community Service. What started as a way to feed homeless individuals in one neighborhood has transformed into an effort to supply basic goods to an entire community in need. (SF Bay Area)
  • Room to Grow. This group is dedicated to supporting expectant parents and making sure newborns have the things they need to thrive. (Boston)



Stuffing backpacks with school supplies for kids in need at Create the Change Day 2019

Keep reading.

The best first step to helping someone in need is taking the time to understand what they’re going through. Here are some resources about homelessness and poverty that will inspire you to give back.  

The books, websites, charities, and/or other entities we share does not imply explicit endorsement by PGK, nor does PGK have any responsibility for the content provided by other organizations or websites. Content on this site is provided for informational purposes only.


Elementary school readers


Maddi’s Fridge
by Lois Brandt (Author), Vin Vogel (Illustrator)




A Shelter in Our Car
by Monica Gunning (Author), Elaine Pedlar (Illustrator)



Those Shoes
by Maribeth Boelts (Author), Noah Z. Jones (Illustrator)




Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña (Author), Christian Robinson (Illustrator)




by Adam Eisenson




A Handful of Seeds by Monica Hughes



A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams



Beatrice’s Goat
by Page McBrier (Author) and Lori Lohstoeter (Illustrator)


Middle school readers



Esperanza Rising
by Pam Munoz Ryan 





No Place to Be: Voices of Homeless Children
by Judith Berck





Changing Places: A Kids View of Shelter Living
by Judy Wallace, Glen Finland and Margie Chalofsky





Rufus M
by Eleanor Estes (Author), Louis Slobodkin (Illustrator)



High school readers



Trash by Andy Mulligan





Make Lemonade
by Virginia Euwer Wolff





Now is the Time for Running
by Michael Williams





Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard
by Liz Murray





Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond




Online Resources

13 Essential Items to Donate
Toilet paper. Small bottles of shampoo. Bicycles. Get ideas for what to donate to your community. 

Feeding America [Study]
In this study by Feeding America, you get a deeper look into how many families struggle to afford basic needs and the impact that has on them. 


Household Goods [Video]
Household Goods is one of our partners, and they created this video to show you who needs household goods and which items they need most.

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