Good deed

Children share winter clothes with Halifax homeless

Salvation Army says demand for warm clothes already high

A Caledonia woman spread warmth in Halifax this past weekend.

Tara Smith-Atkins along with her husband, daughter and her daughter’s friends gave out winter clothes downtown on Sunday. They collected the items from friends and family in Caledonia.

She said it was a good learning experience for the kids, who were in town for her daughter’s birthday party.

“After an hour of walking, they were all frozen,” Smith-Atkins said. “I told them that this is exactly why we did this. People live on the street. [They] were walking for an hour.”

The kids distributed 35 items. They gave some clothes to people directly, but also attached some jackets to telephone poles. Each coat had either a scarf, mittens, or hat in the pocket.

Caledonia students left arm jackets on telephone poles on Halifax streets. Tags on the coats let people know the items were free to take.
Caledonia students left warm jackets on telephone poles on Halifax streets. Tags on the coats let people know the items were free to take.   Emma Meldrum

“One man refused a jacket, his pride wouldn’t allow [it],” said Smith-Atkins.

“That’s why we left it on the street. Maybe they’ll pick it up when no one sees them. I’m going to leave it to faith that if someone takes it, they obviously need it.”

Jackets that were tied to poles near the library were gone only two days after they were put up.

A donated jacket is attached to a light post outside the Halifax library
A donated jacket is attached to a light post outside the Halifax Central Library   Emma Meldrum

Increasing need for donations

Steve is one Halifax resident who needs winter clothes – everything from boots to a heavy coat. He says his jacket from last year has a broken zipper.

“I don’t have money for thrift stores,” Steve said. “So I’m just going to wait.”

Temperatures dropped below 0 C this week. Steve says he hopes he’ll find a heavy jacket soon.

He’s not alone.

Michele Walker works for the Salvation Army. She says more and more people are looking for help as winter approaches.

“The demand this year is already higher than ever,” Walker said in an email. “The increase may be in anticipation of another tough winter coming or it may be that more people are finding it tougher to make ends meet.”

She said that the need for donations of warm clothing continues through the season. Walker encourages people to donate – even if they don’t have a lot to give.

“Sometimes people believe that they need to bring a bag or two of donations into the store to make it worthwhile.”

“It works for us if people can think in ‘ones’ if it is easier – one pair of mittens, one coat, one scarf, one cap, one pair of boots, a sweater.”

Expanding the project

Smith-Atkins said she hopes to donate clothes again next year, but may add something new: restaurant gift cards. She said many people they spoke to asked for change, but they didn’t bring cash with them.

She said her priority is creating a teaching experience for the kids.

“They don’t know homelessness is an issue,” she explained. “They didn’t realize the seriousness of it.”