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Community organizations collect winter donations for homeless St. Louisans

Sign at a homeless tent encampment on sidewalk in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 26, 2017.
File photo | Chelsea Hoye | St. Louis Public Radio
Sign at a homeless tent encampment on sidewalk in downtown St. Louis on Oct. 26, 2017.

Local community organizations are teaming up to collect and distribute donated items for homeless people who’re suffering in the dangerous cold.

A Winter Homeless Outreach event coordinated through Facebook has attracted more than 4,000 interested users. It’s a collaboration between Let’s Help The Homeless, CDDB Community Charity and Just For Kidz. Outreach services for veterans will also join the event. 

The event started in Let’s Help The Homeless Founder Trinis Collins’ home several years ago. She said the huge response to its Facebook post is a far cry from the small gatherings of earlier years. “We’re just blown away by how much people are stepping up to help,” she said.

Collins' inspiration came from her early 20s, when she became homeless herself. She wanted to help others who found themselves in the same situation.

Co-organizer Meghana Bharadwaj, who founded Just For Kidz, said the online interest gives her hope that the event might see hundreds of donations and volunteers.

For Bharadwaj, whose group works largely for children, the partnership is a way to focus on the needs of children and adults. “The majority of people at homeless shelters are actually families that have young children,” she said.

The organizations are collecting winter gear, hygiene products, and other necessities. Collins said that people most need heavy wool blankets, sleeping bags, socks, gloves, and coats.

Volunteers will meet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 13, at the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, 3113 Gasconade St, St. Louis,to package the donated items. The Winter Homeless Outreach team is developing routes that volunteers will use to deliver the packages.

“Grab some bags, put ‘em in the car — we’re all going out,” Collins said.

For Bharadwaj, that delivery is central to successful outreach. “Face-to-face interaction is important so that we can hear from the community their struggles,” she said. “It’s really easy to drown out the voices of people who are experiencing these issues.”

This year, the event comes after St. Louis city and county have expanded their winter outreach because below-freezing temperatures set in around Christmas. City officials have organized emergency systems to get as many people off the streets as possible. But there have been reports of people leaving shelters, and police said that a person found dead earlier this week may have died of hypothermia.

“More always needs to be done,” Bharadwaj said. “Regardless of how much the government does, there’s just not enough resources to be able to do everything.”

The organizers are planning drop-off points for people who want to donate, but can’t attend the event. That information is available on Facebook.

Here’s the full list of needed items:

  • Coats
  • Sweaters
  • Hats
  • Pants and jeans
  • Mittens
  • Scarves
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Hand warmers
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sterno fuel packs
  • Toothpaste
  • Tooth brushes
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Brushes
  • Tampons and pads
  • Book bags
  • Non-perishable food items

Other programs collecting donations include PotBangerz, St. Louis Winter Outreach via Facebook, and local churches. Generally, these outreach organizations are most active on social media.

Follow Kae on Twitter @kmaepetrin

Kae Petrin covers public transportation and housing as a digital reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.

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