WITH winter fast approaching, Harlow Council has launched the town’s first ‘Coat Exchange Scheme’ for the homeless and vulnerable.
Situated in the central library, the scheme hopes to see people donate their unwanted coats and jackets by simply hanging them up on a rail for those in need to come in and help themselves. Scarves, gloves and hats can also be donated.
Councillor Ian Beckett, chair of Harlow’s Health and Wellbeing board, has championed the scheme.
He said: ‘The health and wellbeing of all the people of Harlow is paramount and that includes those without homes or vulnerably housed.
‘Lack of housing is an issue but there are complex reasons for people’s individual circumstances and we know that initiatives like this can make a real difference, especially at this time of year.’
Harlow’s homeless charities, Street2Homes and The Chocolate Run are also backing the idea. Kerrie Eastman, Chief Operations Officer for Street2Homes said: ‘We know how generous Harlow people are and were confident this scheme will receive significant support and be warmly welcomed.’
It seems so far, not many people have been taking the coats, although some have been trying them on. However, there has been an abundance of donations, indicating that people are indeed being generous.
Just outside the library, there is a small stall selling jumpers and jogging bottoms at low prices for just £2.99. This could potentially take the attention away from the Coat Exchange option, which is just a few feet away from the stall.
Despite the possible ‘competition’, other Essex libraries have also followed the same initiatives such as, Colchester, Chelmsford and Witham.
Councillor Susan Barker, Essex County Council cabinet member, who is responsible for the libraries, said: ‘This is a fantastic community-inspired idea and one which will make a real difference to people in need, especially as the cold weather begins to creep in. Simple schemes like this, where people are invited to donated unwanted coats by simple hanging them up, while those in need can help themselves, are to be congratulated and I would encourage people to donate what they can to get it started.’
With enough promotion to raise awareness of what is available to the homeless this year, hopefully those in need will take full advantage of the scheme.