If you’ve been following CAARSEA’s activities for a while, you probably know that one of our signature initiatives is our monthly outreach in Norristown for those in need. Each month, CAARSEA volunteers connect with our unhoused neighbors and distribute clothes, shoes, and other necessities—all donated by the members of the CAARSEA community.
Contributing donations to the monthly outreach is one of the simplest, most tangible ways to make a difference, and the outpouring of generosity that CAARSEA sees every month is truly heartwarming. We’ve put together a list of tips for making your donations truly impactful so that we can continue to make life better for the unhoused in our area.
1.) Stick with the seasons. Right now, with the temperatures often below freezing, our biggest need is for winter coats. Other much-needed items include long-sleeve shirts, sweatpants, and sweatshirts. There will certainly be a need for lighter clothing when the temperatures change, but because CAARSEA volunteers store donations in their own homes rather than a warehouse, there is simply no space to store items for upcoming seasons. When pulling together your donations, keep the current season in mind.
2.) Know your neighbors. The unhoused population that we serve in is comprised of adults, the majority of whom are male, and we cannot accept children’s clothing. There is a tremendous need for larger sizes (XL and above for men’s and women’s clothing and size 12-13 for shoes).
3.) Comfort is key. The unhoused are often sleeping on the streets or in crowded temporary housing, both of which are far less comfortable than a bed in a private room. As such, it’s important that their clothing be as comfortable as possible. Think sweatpants, sweatshirts, and cotton long-sleeve T-shirts rather than button-downs and slacks. When it comes to footwear, think sneakers or hiking boots rather than sandals or flip-flops.
4.) What’s underneath counts. While winter coats are one of our biggest needs right now, we are in need of underwear and socks year-round. If you would like to donate underwear, keep in mind that they MUST be new! Socks should ideally be new but can also be gently used and, most importantly, clean. Again, larger sizes are preferable.
5.) We take toiletries too. The caveat here is that toiletries must be unused and unexpired. Travel sizes are ideal as the unhoused often move from place to place and cannot carry large or heavy items. Deodorant and individually packaged bars of soap are some of our most in-demand toiletries.
6.) Donate with dignity. When selecting items for donation, keep in mind that the unhoused deserve to dress with dignity like anyone else. A good rule to remember: if you wouldn’t wear it, it cannot be donated. This goes for any items with holes or stains, or any item that’s too worn to be usable. If you have items that aren’t in the proper condition to be donated but don’t want to throw them out, we encourage you to check out this local resource for textile recycling.
If you have questions about our monthly outreach, feel free to DM us on social media or fill out the contact form on our website! We are forever grateful for the generosity of the CAARSEA community that allows us to serve the needs of the unhoused in our local area.