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Your Old Gear Can Help Save Lives Right Now

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If Santa brought you some new winter swag, you can spread cheer to others in need.


There are more than half a million people without a home to sleep in tonight.

The complex nature of homelessness in America means this problem will persist. But there are simple, tangible things you can do right now to help someone survive the winter.

Your old gear—coats, sleeping bags, hats, even tents—can be a lifeline for those sleeping out in the cold.

Donating Winter Gear To The Homeless

Woolrich hunting Pants (1)

“The simple fact is there are not enough shelter beds across the country for people who need them,” Megan Hustings, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, told us.

To survive, homeless individuals endure winter nights in tent encampments, alone in parks, or on the street. In every scenario, they depend on reliable winter gear.

Identify Donatable Gear

Take a look in your closet: that old scarf that stays on a hook, the out-of-style ski jacket, or those mittens you never wore—they’re all prime candidates for donation.

In general, Hustings said, donate what you would want to receive. In short, donating is not an equal alternative to the landfill. Worn is good, broken or torn is not.

What To Donate

Anything that keeps people warm and dry is at the top of the list to donate. Gear that’s specific to sport or recreation, say crampons, is a better fit for secondhand or consignment shops.

Photo credit: m01229

Look for gear that will simply help someone survive the night. Consider these:

  • Puffy jackets
  • Rain shells
  • Boots
  • Wool socks
  • Sweaters
  • Mittens / gloves
  • Hats
  • Tents
  • Sleeping bags
  • Scarves
  • Base layers

How To Donate

Hustings outlined three ways you can get that gear to the people who need it.

First, go to the National Coalition for the Homeless directory of shelters and organizations. There, you can find hundreds of contacts around the country to help you donate your gear.

Second, look up homeless shelters in your city—odds are there’s one nearby. They will often accept and distribute donated gear, plus help you identify more ways you can help.

Lastly, Husting recommends engaging with individuals you might otherwise pass by. If you see someone shivering with an “anything helps” sign at a corner, ask them if they need warm gloves or a coat.

It may be daunting, but the stigma of homelessness alienates people very much like yourself: children, families, and veterans included.

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Start your year in the best way possible: Impact someone else’s life for the better. Consider donating your old gear to someone who truly needs it.

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