As I've said elsewhere, Backpacks For The Homeless didn't originate with me, but it did come to me through a lot of prayer, not through any outside source. To my knowledge, the first group to practice Backpacks was a girl scout troop in Cleveland, Ohio.
One thing which I've done here, which I felt led to do, was to turn the focus from simple sustenance items to items which can actually save a life in inclement weather. In cold weather, the homeless do their best to stay warm, but every year, many die of exposure.
A blanket is an obvious thing to include in a backpack, but in my opinion, the most important item to include is a tarp. The tarp, when combined with the blanket, can act as a barrier to cold, wind and rain. The person can lay the blanket out in the tarp, roll up in it and use it for protection.
I first began praying for a personal ministry in 2003. It took a while for the idea to coalesce, but I feel that this ministry was inspired by the holy spirit.
After that, I began to publicize the outreach on television, radio and most effectively, through the internet.
Since then, I have received hundreds of emails from like minded people who have decided to take up the Backpacks cause. To my knowledge, it's now being practiced in at least ten states including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Michigan and California.
I do accept donations for the work I've done here and every penny goes to support the outreach, the website and those who practice it.
Here are some of the messages we've received...
"Greetings. My name is Dana T. Jenkins, and I serve the Spring Creek Church of God in Chattanooga as college pastor. I have an older brother who has been fighting mental illness and alcoholism for several years. The Lord has blessed him with a home now, but his addiction and other problems have led him to homeless shelters and outreach centers in Knoxville, TN and Las Vegas, NV. I have a heart for homeless ministry. I do not feel guilty for the blessings of God that He has given me such as a home and car, but I want to help however I can. I am also a frequent visitor to Chattanoogan.com and I read your article and my heart was very touched by a creative, truly Spirit-inspired ministry. You are providing essential items to homeless people and no one can hide behind the excuse of not wanting to give cash in case they use it for the wrong reasons."
"First, let me say THANKS for this great tip. I have wanted to do something for the homeless for a long time but just couldn't get a handle on how to help them in the greatest way without endangering myself or others. Thank you again."
"I received you email and was very touched by your actions. This is truly an awesome and very personal way for an individual to make an impact on someone directly. I was sorely tempted to forward this to everyone one on our email list but know that that means not all CCS'ers will get it cause they don't all have emails and it would bypass the PCS'ers. So, what I would like to ask you to do is either yourself, or me (if you will give me permission) rewrite it just a little to turn it into an article for the Singles Newsletter with the hope that it would provide a bit of inspiration to others to participate in this as well."
Disclaimer: Backpacksforthehomeless.org asks everyone to understand that all people, homeless or not, can be unpredicatable. Please use due dilligence, caution and common sense when approaching people. Stick to well lighted areas, where other people are and try to work in pairs when possible.