PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Senate is moving forward with its annual coat drive for the homeless, which lawmakers say is important now more than ever due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the state’s housing crisis.
Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, the State House lawn is lined with racks full of hundreds of thousands of donated coats, blankets, hats, gloves and other types of winter gear.
The donated clothing is made available to anyone who needs it as part of “Buy Nothing Day,” and while the Senate can’t host the event traditionally this year due to the pandemic, they’re still collecting coats and winter gear for the homeless at the State House.
“We are now in a crisis with this pandemic. The needs are even higher this year, and we have fewer resources to help. We’ve lost shelter beds. There are no shelters now in Pawtucket and Central Falls. People desperately need help, and it’s harder than ever to get it,” Diamond Madsen, who has been a major force behind the drive and who was once homeless herself. “It’s still going to be cold, and people are still going to need warm coats, boots and blankets. I hope everyone who can will donate whatever they can, because the needs are high.”
Beginning Tuesday, anyone who has clean, new or gently-used coats, hats, gloves, scarves, boots or blankets is asked to bring them to the legislators’ entrance of the State House between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Socks are also being collected, however, they must be new.
The entrance is located at the back of the upper parking lot on Smith Street. Those who are donating will be allowed to drive into the lot Monday through Friday, which is typically closed to the public.
All of the donated items will be distributed to the homeless by advocates and the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.
Anyone who does not have any clothing to donate but would like to make a contribution can do so on the coalition’s website.
“While the pandemic has made our housing crisis even worse, the fact is we have a housing crisis because housing is simply unaffordable in Rhode Island at the best of times,” Sen. Dawn Euer, who’s coordinating the coat drive said. “Housing has been shown to be the most efficient and effective step toward addressing a wide variety of social issues. Our state needs to make affordable housing development a permanent priority, so we have fewer people out in the cold in need of coats and blankets this time of year.”