Student Launches Red Bags Program for Homeless

Instead of handing a $5 bill to someone on the corner, this Solana Beach teen wants you to give out a Red Bag filled with basic necessities

A San Diego high school senior, unwilling to ignore panhandlers, has found a way to quickly give them a few basic necessities.

The idea launched a non-profit known as “Red Bag." The organization builds and distributes water-resistant bags to the homeless in San Diego.

Michael McRoskey of Solana Beach showed NBC 7 what’s inside every Red Bag – snacks, water, hand wipes and other essentials.

The St. Augustine senior's car is always stocked with the bags – just in case he sees someone in need. He said he has stocked his parents' cars as well.

He believes it’s an alternative to handing cash to someone standing on a street corner.

“I thought, ‘why don't we put together a care package that we could sell for $5 that people could carry in their cars? Instead of giving out cash, they could actually help our neighbors in need,’” McRoskey told NBC 7.

The senior came up with the idea when his freshman English class passed out sandwiches to the homeless in downtown San Diego.

“I thought, ‘there's such a need. What if anyone could do what my class did?’” he said.

Now, Red Bag is a 501c3 non-profit with 2,500 red bags sold to date.

The organization’s message has spread to local parishes and six county high schools.

McRoskey said local companies are ordering them by the dozens.

“I didn't want to live the rest of my life turning my head away when I saw these people because I do see them, they have their signs, and a lot of them do need our help,” McRoskey said.

A woman named Tracy who described herself as homeless said any act of kindness is welcome.

“Being given food, being given anything is awesome,” she said.

But the reaction McRoskey said he will always remember was when one person knew about the program and got excited about receiving a Red Bag.

“That to me kind of gave me goose bumps,” he said.

McRoskey suggested people could add fresh fruit, homemade goods, toiletries or anything else to personalize the Red Bag. The bags also come with a note you can personalize.

He hopes to take the project with him to college but mostly, he wants more high schools to take it on through the Red Bag Ambassador Program.

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