For roadside homeless, help comes in a baggie

If you live in a metropolitan area, there’s a pretty fair chance that you’ll pull up to an intersection today and a homeless person will be standing with a cardboard sign.

You might throw a few bucks his/her way, but probably not. More likely, you’ll try to avoid eye contact, and feel fairly miserable in the process.

There’s an alternative. One of these:


The Roadside Kindness Packets are the brainchild of Minneapolis’ Dignity Center at the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church and Small Sums, a St. Paul-based organization (which I wrote about here) which helps homeless people with the tools — literally — they need for employment to get back on their feet.

The church started the project last year as Roadsign Grains and has now expanded it to the packets, which it encourages people to give to panhandlers rather than money, or rather than ignoring them.


Inside each baggie is a directory to food shelves and hot meals, lip balm, a granola bar and hydrating lotion.

“It provides an opportunity to simply acknowledge that you see the panhandler as a human being and offer information about helpful services,” the included instructions for motorists say.

It also includes tips on what to say to a homeless panhandler:

“Would you like one of these packets with a soft granola bar and some helpful information?” for example.

Or “Please take care and be safe out here on the road.”

At the same time, it lists what not to say, such as “why don’t you go to a shelter?” Or “Why don’t you get a job?”

The bags are available in bundles of 10 for $10.