Charities that run coat donation drives are bracing themselves for rising demand as the cost of living crisis bites. Image: HandsOn London
As temperatures plunge this winter, life gets harder for people living on the streets and for those living below the poverty line who are pushed into the position of choosing whether to heat or eat – that’s where a coat donation can help.
The cost of living crisis is hitting household incomes and is likely to push more people into poverty while the surging energy bills behind the issue may make it harder than ever to keep warm this winter.
While there are many ways you can help out, perhaps the simplest is donating a winter coat.
If you have a big bulky coat just taking up space in the back of your wardrobe, stuffed in a cupboard or under the bed, it could make a potentially life-saving difference to someone in need.
Here’s how you can donate your coat – or simply set up a place for others to do so.
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There are tons of people doing good across the UK with national initiatives and local grassroots projects up and running all over the country.
The main players including Take One Leave One, the WrapUp campaign, Only a Pavement Away and Care4Calais collect thousands of coats every year for people experiencing homelessness, refugees and anyone else who needs it.
Now in its fifth winter, Take One Leave One is returning in 2022 with the same simple concept that made it such a hit in previous years.
Founded by investigative journalist and campaigner Stefan Simanowitz, the idea involves leaving a rail out on the street for people to hang up their coat and for others in need to come and pick one out.
The idea has spread across Britain in recent years and one rail in Bristol even caught the attention of British band Massive Attack.
Around 100 rails were in operation in 2021, Simonwitz said, with some running weekly and others even running all year round.
Simanowitz is set to hold a launch for this year’s initiative on December 13.
He previously told The Big Issue anyone can set up a Take One Leave One rail in their area simply by putting out a rail and putting up a sign. Then it’s simply a case of sharing your location on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #TOLO alongside your city/town. Simanowitz can even send out a sign for a small fee.
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“In September we tend to do a need assessment with the charities and the food banks we support. The demand definitely seems higher with certain organisations,” said Shah.
“We’re finding that organisations like food banks whose main focus is food and food distribution are now trying to cater for other needs. We have got some food banks who are interested in taking coats from us. Obviously there is a need there and they want to address that need.
“We’re anticipating that there is going to be more demand. There’s the fact that there are more people who are not from the homeless community, not from refugee communities. These are people who have homes who probably have relatively low income jobs who are also in need of coats and also in need of support in one way or another. It’s not something we are typically used to. It’s quite unprecedented.”
Find your local Wrap Up dates, times and drop-off points here.
There are also satellite projects run by rotary clubs in provincial towns and regions outside the big cities. Further WrapUp initiatives can be found in Bolton, Brampton & Longtown, Bury, Cardiff, Central Lancashire, Cumbria South, East Lancashire, Essex, Lanarkshire, Middlesbrough, Salford, South Fylde, Stockport, Tameside, West of Scotland. Find your local project here.
The group collects coats and blankets as well as essential toiletries to distribute to homeless hostels and shelters from November to February.
Since 2019 the campaign has distributed around £250,000 of items to people sleeping rough or living in hostels.
Elsewhere charity Care4Calais is on a mission to provide a warm winter coat to every refugee in the UK and France. By donating at one of their many drop-off points, your coat will help someone facing uncertainty stay warm in the cold months.
HandsOn London chief executive Jon Meech told The Big Issue he has already seen the cost of living impacting on demand for coats in 2022.
“At the present time we have received requests for 17,000 coats. That’s about 50 per cent up on normal for this stage a couple of weeks before the campaign,” said Meech.
“Looking at the type of organisations that have been coming back to us, in particular the likes of food banks and refugee organisations have been coming back to us very quickly, we think they’re asking for more than they normally do.
“I think the cost of living is going to have a big effect, particularly on food banks and family centres – we’ve had a couple of new family centres that have said: “Is that something we could support them with for some of their local residents and older people?”
The increased need has also meant greater efforts to meet it, Meech added.
“We will just have to put a little bit of extra effort in,” he added. “We’ve been recruiting extra volunteers for sorting, we’ve got a lot more collection spots opening right across the city. So we’re hopeful and conservatively confident that actually we will be able to meet that extra demand because that’s the reason we’re here.”
For more information on how to donate a coat, find or run a local collection or volunteer at a WrapUp London coat sorting hub, head here.
Start a Take One Leave One rail in your neighbourhood. All you need is the green light from your community, a rail and a banner to let people know what you’re doing. Or you could volunteer with one of the coat donation projects mentioned above.
Don’t have cash to spare or enough time to volunteer? Help raise awareness on social media by sharing charity posts or using hashtags to signpost those in need to others who may have a winter coat they no longer need.
Do you know any coat donation projects in your local area that we have missed? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.