A Woman Is Tying Coats Around Lampposts to Donate to the Homeless
At the end of November, 20-year-old Gabriella Kaper decided to focus her winter shopping on a less-than-trendy store: Goodwill.
The Portland, Maine native spent a total of $5 at her local Goodwill shop to get five coats, which she then went and wrapped around light poles around the city with a note: "I'm not lost! Please take me if you need me."
The idea was to help the city's homeless residents in an eye-catching way.
"I put them on light posts so they're higher up so people can see them, and they're up as a display to catch people's attention," Kaper told ABC News.
By the next day, most of the coats were gone, as more Portland residents started copying Kaper's idea and hanging up their own donated winter gear.
And they're not the only ones. Andrea Lisa Robson, from the U.K. town of Sunderland, started a similar trend when she hung up a coat on a lamppost with a note reading: "I am not lost, if you're cold tonight take this warm hug from us."
She posted a photo of the coat to Facebook, which inspired enough followers that Robson started a Facebook page called Project New to bring awareness and gather volunteers.
And three, of course, makes a trend: In November, Tara Smith-Atkins enlisted the help of several kids to help her do the same in Nova Scotia.
She and her husband actually started the "coats on a pole" project, as the Canadian media dubbed it, in Ontario in 2014. Smith-Atkins chose to scale the effort this year in Halifax, "where homelessness is really a visual problem," she told the Toronto-based Star.
Donating coats in the wintertime is a time-honored tradition, but doing so in a way that helps preserve the dignity of the homeless is gaining steam. Tying coats to poles for those who need them is in the spirit of the Street Store, a South African clothing initiative started in 2014 to allow the homeless to "shop" for donated clothes in a pop-up shop setting.
"We often see homeless people, and we wanted to do something to help, but it's tough. Where do you take donations, and who gets them?" co-founder Kayli Vee Levitan told Between 10 and 5 about the endeavor. "We needed a middle ground — somewhere easy to donate and easy to receive."
Now, as temperatures drop in some cities, getting a coat will be easier than ever.