Providing Clothing to Families Facing Poverty Should Be More Than a Funding Accessory. Our Executive Director, Deborah Blatt, recently published an Op-Ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on clothing insecurity in the US and the absence of public policy and philanthropic response to this crisis. https://www.philanthropy.com/article/providing-clothing-to-families-facing-poverty-should-be-more-than-a-funding-accessory
“Clothing insecurity, or the lack of sufficient, clean, seasonal, and size-appropriate apparel, is a much more serious problem then many people understand. If an individual or a family can’t pay the rent or afford to put food on the table, basics like underwear, socks, and shoes become luxuries.”
“Used clothing in this country typically follows a path away from those who actually need free clothes. Here’s how it works: After Americans clean their closets and drawers, they head to the local used-clothing parking-lot bin or they call a nonprofit to pick up their giveaways. Those bins and trucks often have a charitable name, which gives people the impression that donated items miraculously flow to people in need.
The reality is that the large, well-recognized nonprofits that dominate the used-clothing field, such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill, sell donated apparel to fund their charitable work, which, ironically, doesn’t involve clothing poor people. Rather than distributing the clothing, they sell it through their stores. The Salvation Army does have a voucher system that allows people to apply for free clothes, but it isn’t well known or widely used.
The same pattern applies to more regional operations or those targeted to a particular group. These nonprofits contract with a third party, usually a textile grader — a company that owns and sells the clothing. No veteran, for instance, receives free clothing from the Vietnam Veterans of America pick-up. GreenDrop, which has locations along the East Coast, accepts clothing ostensibly on behalf of a few charities, but those items never reach families directly. The GreenDrop website says it supports the fundraising efforts of its charitable partners “through the generation and collection of donated clothing and household items,” which are then sold to various thrift stores.”
This thought-provoking piece challenges the public and private sectors to find new means and mechanisms to pursue a more responsive and responsible approach using principles and practices of models such as The Sharing Shelf and other front-line organizations addressing clothing needs.