If you walked through downtown recently, there’s a chance you already missed the various articles of winter clothing that were hanging all over Ross Street.
A small group of social work students from Red Deer College spent one night securing warm hats, mitts and scarves to whatever street fixtures they could find including light stands, benches, trees and shrubs.
By dawn the next day, most were gone, said Jessica Gilbertson, a second-year student who helped organize the drive.
In just the last two weeks, students collected at least 70 items by setting up drop boxes at agencies in the City. They attached tags to the clothes, inviting those in need to take whatever they needed to stay warm.
“I am not lost, if you are stuck outside, please take this to keep warm,” the tags read.
At least three people were seen helping themselves within a few minutes after students dressed the street.
Gilbertson said she was happy with the community’s response to their clothing drive and hopes to see it grow into an annual event.
“Based on the fact that every single article of clothing was gone under 12 hours speaks to that need. Hopefully we can do it again,” she said.
According to Zeljka Udovicic, another second-year student, they knew there’s a certain percentage of the homeless who do not use shelters. This was about providing for them, where they are.
There have been other communities in Canada who’ve done this. This is where the students got the idea.
“Everybody has the right to basic needs,” said Gilbertson. “And they are not being met in Alberta. Clothing is a basic need and we wanted to provide them with winter wear to help them stay warm.”
As she ties scarves to trees and adorns the waist-high downtown heritage signs with hats, Gilbertson moves quickly. She has a passion for helping the less fortunate so she enrolled in the RDC program.
“We have a role in helping create change as social workers,” she said. “We’re advocates for people who don’t feel like they may have a voice. I feel our homeless, which are one of the most vulnerable in our population, don’t feel like they have a voice.”