Clothing is a vital and routine aspect of one’s life; as often as we dispose of clothing, how often do we consider where it all goes? Clothing donations not only provide support but survival for homeless populations. Each year in Philadelphia alone, residents dispose of more than 35,000 tons of clothing; this issue is a leading contributor to environmental degradation. In addition to this concern, a large proportion of used clothing is donated to locations that obtain profit. Although this option is far more sustainable than merely clothing disposal, thrift stores only sell an estimated 20% of the materials they receive. So, this raises the question: what purpose does the remaining clothing serve? With 700 to 800 people living on the streets of Philadelphia at any time, clothing materials are crucial for survival, especially during the fall and winter seasons.
Although various organizations dedicate assistance and support to the homeless through clothing donations, there remains a disparity in donation materials. Within Philadelphia 58% of homeless people are male, 41% are female, and 1% are transgender or non-binary. Unfortunately, women are more likely to donate clothing than men, leaving minimal room for unisex options. Furthermore, studies have reportedly found that men are more likely to remain in a state of homelessness and face longer durations of homelessness than women and transgender individuals. The homeless community is reliant on donated clothing to provide comfort and protection at any time. With a lack of adequate and viable materials for all identities, the basic necessity of clothing becomes unattainable; therefore, a large majority of the homeless population is left in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
Grace Cafe, TU-AMA’s Charity of Choice for the year, advocates for such disproportion. Below is an image of Grace Cafe’s clothing pantry, specifically the male section. A majority of Philadelphians sourcing support from Grace Cafe happen to be men. As one can see, the supply is sparse, with minimal sizing and seasonal options available. Grace Cafe regularly accepts donations, as well as offers volunteer opportunities. Meal serves take place every Sunday, offering fresh meals to the local community. Grace Cafe strives to support and provide for the community among Philadelphia neighbors when they need it most.
Visit Grace Cafe for more information.
Necessary donation items include socks, undergarments, heavy coats, and any unisex options. Items that may appear ordinary have the potential to better the living circumstance of another person. Before cleaning out your closets this fall and winter, consider the items that haven’t been touched in years, and offer them a new life to an individual that depends on them.
Additional Donation Resources:
The Wardrobe offers clothing from casual wear to work wear. The Open Wardrobe initiative is a new monthly program that provides participants with one free outfit and accessories. Each monthly campaign is specialized, for example, upcoming Open Wardrobe events include LGBTQIA+ and Back to School. More information on donating can be found here.