Money is a good starting point. It gives shelters the flexibility to stock up on whatever items they need. This can be an ever-changing list, so money allows them to buy exactly what they need, rather than accumulating donations they don't need. If you're short on time, this method is also by far the simplest, as it requires little time and streamlines the tax deduction process if you decide to itemize it.
In general, giving cash is a no-brainer. Underwear is another last-minute idea, but shelters are crying out for more underwear to give to their customers. While its importance is obvious, you may not consider long underwear, in particular, to be an effective tool for fighting the winter cold. It's amazing how much hotter people with one more layer on their lower body feel.
Don't hesitate to donate underwear in bulk in all sizes, so that anyone who walks through the doors of a shelter has a new pair. When you give one to a resident, it can keep them comfortable at night or give them some privacy, a surface to sit on, or a place for your pet to rest. There's no way a donated blanket could go to waste. Many people donate new, unused clothing to homeless shelters and thrift stores.
However, only a small portion of those donations are unused socks and underwear. Most of the world's shelters desperately need these items. Shelters use socks very quickly, as they are one of the most sought after items by men, women and children who use their facilities. You can help someone in need replace a pair of heavily worn socks by donating new socks to the nearest homeless shelter.
Pillows are a simple item that we often take for granted, but for someone who is homeless, it's one less thing to keep them awake at night. Homeless shelters are constantly in need of pillows to provide as much comfort as possible to individuals and families staying in their facilities. Help keep members of your community warm by participating in your local coat collection campaign. Donate coats that your family has accumulated over the years and that you no longer need.
A coat is much more useful when it keeps someone warm than when they're sitting in a closet. Surprisingly, these are some of the items most in demand by people who use homeless shelters. Clothing, in general, is a luxury when you can't even afford a place to live. The unfortunate fact is that many homeless people need to buy lower quality clothing to compensate.
As such, they review these garments very quickly, leading to more clothing costs in the long run. A donation of quality underwear and socks (still in the original packaging) means that a homeless person doesn't have to feel uncomfortable either. You can make a big difference in someone's life by simply donating underwear that you barely think about twice a day. These types of donations are a perfect way to help when you might not have a lot of extra money.