Edmonton charities launch ‘urgent’ campaign for cash-only donations to buy clothing for homeless

Two Edmonton charities are hoping for cash donations to purchase clothing for the homeless amid the COVID-19 crisis. Global News

Two local charities are hoping the generosity of Edmontonians will help keep the homeless population warm and clothed as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Boyle Street Community Services and the Bissell Centre have launched a #Clothes4Comfort campaign, hoping to get cash donations so they can purchase clothing for the homeless who are accessing drop-in services at the EXPO Centre.

The EXPO Centre has been running as a temporary health and drop-in centre since early last week.

READ MORE: Edmonton EXPO Centre homeless shelter to have drop-in, COVID-19 health care services

The Boyle McCauley Health Centre and Alberta Health Services are running the health centre, and Boyle Street, the Bissell Centre and Homeward Trust are running the drop-in aspect of the centre.

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“With our inability to accept in-kind donations like the physical clothing, we are requesting funds at this time so we can purchase clothing for participants who are accessing the day program,” said Scarlet Bjornson, marketing and communications co-ordinator for the Bissell Centre.

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Both Boyle Street and the Bissell Centre halted physical clothing donations last week due to concerns of spreading COVID-19.

While the provincial government provided $25 million in funding for COVID-19 homeless centres to be operated across Alberta — including the EXPO Centre — that money is mainly for day-to-day operations and leaves little wiggle room.

“The majority of that funding is devoted to operational aspects of the EXPO Centre,” said Elliot Tanti, communications and development manager for Boyle Street Community Services. “Paying staff, making sure we can get food to people, sorting out the basic nuts and bolts of running the entire EXPO Centre.

“Right now what we need is clothing to give to people today.”

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Tanti estimates that about 500 to 600 people have attended the drop-in centre each day since it opened last Tuesday.

READ MORE: ‘It’s critical’: More than 200 charities call on feds for funding amid COVID-19

The campaign is hoping for individual donations of $15, which can help purchase shoes, socks, mitts, gloves and sweat pants. Some people requesting clothing have already been turned down at the EXPO Centre due to the current lack of supply.

“It just highlights what a serious need we have for clothing in the inner city,” Tanti said, “and just how crucial in-kind donations generally are.”

The groups said that while they cannot accept clothing at this time, anyone who has donations can save them for when it becomes safe to donate again.

“If we could just please ask them to hold on to them for us because as soon as we can accept them, we would be happy to take them off their hands,” said Bjornson.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the groups had already raised over $19,500 out of a $10,000 goal.