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Supporting the homeless is an important cause to many Americans. Unhoused people are without the cornerstone of shelter, around which everyone else builds their lives. It’s often difficult for them to get by or rebuild their lives without assistance from others. Over the past year or so, many people have been out of work and unable to pay their rent. Unfortunately, this means that the problem of homelessness is actually on the rise right now.

Many good-hearted people want to make a difference for the homeless in their local area. They may not always know the right way to go about it, though. Usually, it’s best for a trained outreach worker to approach people who live on the streets. These workers are often volunteers or employees of shelters and related organizations. One of the best ways to be an effective helper is to listen to unhoused people and the organizations who serve them about what goods they need. Homeless shelters are very open about donations they need.

Calling a shelter and asking about this is the best way to make an effective donation. But be aware, some of these needs change seasonally. For example, during the winter months, they may hold coat drives. In the summertime, the homeless population has very different needs.

During the summer months, shelters report needing some of the same products that are always in demand. These include hygiene products like deodorant, toothbrushes, tampons or pads, and shaving kits. During the summer, small battery-powered fans and batteries are important for the homeless. They help people stay cool in the heat.

Perhaps unexpectedly, umbrellas are actually important year-round, because they can provide shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. During the summer, things like juice boxes and bottled water are crucial. They help unhoused people stay hydrated and may help stave off heat sickness.

Finally, sometimes what shelters need the most is money. They may be able to buy items in bulk at a discount lower than what you’ll pay for an individual item like an umbrella. They are also tax-exempt organizations. This means that they don’t pay sales tax, and again, their dollar can go farther than yours. However, most shelters are also grateful for items that are in high demand from their clients.