A fresh bag of men’s clothing is hung up on a rack in the basement of Our Place. Within seconds, a trio of men converge on the rolling wardrobe.
Such is the case when the stores of clothing at the Pandora Avenue facility run short.
“Right now we’re short of absolutely everything,” laments Grant McKenzie, communications director at Our Place.
“A lot of times in December, we’ll get truckloads coming from charity drives and things like that, and that helps us get through the winter, because it’s wet and it’s cold, and keeping people dry is very important. But this year we didn’t get those big truckloads and it ended up depleting every piece of clothing that we have, which makes it very difficult for people to find something that fits,” he says. “You’ll see people that are wearing shoes that are too small, or pants that are too tight or too big, and they’re holding them up with a string. So we’re really short of everything, the whole gamut.”
While women’s clothing of all kinds is always gratefully accepted, men’s clothing is particularly in high demand and short supply. Unlike women, who are more prone to switch their wardrobe with the changing seasons, many men wear their jeans, t-shirts and outerwear, like rain jackets, until they’re getting threadbare before throwing them away, McKenzie says.
“So if you’ve lost a lot of weight, or gained a lot of weight and you don’t need those clothes, it would be fantastic if the men would jump into their closets and bring some of that stuff down.”
There is no middleman when clothes are donated to Our Place – volunteers and staff sort them and put them out for people to take away free.
After picking up some items, a man stops to say how much he appreciates the media letting the public know of the need. Adds McKenzie – “when people get something like that, a pair of pants that fit, it can change their whole demeanor.”
Always a need, but especially during the wet winter months, is the need for new socks and underwear. As people on the street and some others in poverty have limited access to laundry services, Our Place hands out upwards of 100 pairs of socks and underwear a day.
On the subject of staying dry, McKenzie said one volunteer nurse who used to be head of surgery locally told him that the number of foot amputations is down dramatically, largely due to the foot inspection protocol at Our Place. With less people suffering debilitating foot rot, it prevents other conditions such as diabetes to cause other problems.
Donations of clothing are accepted 24/7 at Our Place, 919 Pandora Ave. For more information, visit ourplacesociety.com.