What do Homeless Shelter Residents Want and Need?

February 1, 2018

If you’ve ever thought about volunteering in your community or donating to a homeless shelter, you may have wondered what would make a difference for the people you want to give to. Some items, like canned food and travel size toiletries, might be obvious. What about the not-so-obvious needs of people who live in homeless shelters? We talked to some of our residents, and here are some examples of donations that made a difference in their lives.


A simple watch can make a big difference for a person living in a homeless shelter. Many people rely on their phones to keep the time, but for a homeless shelter resident there may not always be a place to charge a phone battery or enough money to keep the phone on. Having a watch lets a person living in a shelter stay aware of the time for appointments, interviews, curfew, and more.

Clothing and Accessories

Many of us have clothes that we don’t wear, for one reason or another. If you have clothing that’s in good condition but that no longer fits or isn’t your style, it could be a huge blessing to someone in need. Accessories you don’t use anymore—like purses, ties, scarves, gloves, or even jewelry—can make a resident feel special and cared about. Women who are in the shelter after leaving an abusive situation may have a particular need for bras, as there often is not time to gather enough clothes in an emergency. For a person living in a homeless shelter, a pack of new socks or underwear can make a big difference.

Tablet or iPad

Children who are experiencing homelessness still have homework. Having a tablet to access the internet can help a child do well in school, even though life has thrown her family a curveball. When you upgrade your technology, consider donating the used device to Raleigh Rescue Mission.


Life doesn’t stop once a family seeks shelter, and life is a whole lot easier with a good pair of shoes. Each time you donate a pair of shoes to Raleigh Rescue Mission, a resident gets to go to job interviews, school, worship services, and more with confidence. When your kids outgrow their shoes before they wear them out, consider donating the shoes to a child in need.

Books, Journals, and Pens

At Raleigh Rescue Mission, we help our residents meet their spiritual needs as well as the practical. A bible or a journal can help a resident get through a tough time. Studying scripture brings comfort to many people, and our residents are no exception. Having a journal to work through thoughts and feelings, or even do some creative writing, can make a difference in the life of someone living in a shelter.

Gift Cards

If you want to give to the homeless in Raleigh but aren’t sure what to donate, a gift card to a major retailer or grocer is a great way to help. By giving a gift card, you can be sure that the resident is getting exactly what they want and need in their situation.

Prepaid Phone

We rely on our phones every day. Having a phone with talk minutes can give the resident something of their own that they can use to help find a job, stay in touch with their kids, or reach out to family.


Raleigh Rescue Mission is always looking for volunteers and donations. Whether you give an hour of your time to help serve a meal, bless someone with clothes you no longer wear, or donate a new item, you will make another person’s life better. Find out how you can help by visiting the Raleigh Rescue Mission or at www.raleighrescue.org.