This Victorian initiative is encouraging people to donate their pre-loved coats to help homeless people in the community

This Victorian initiative is encouraging people to donate their pre-loved coats to help homeless people in the community

You can help keep a homeless person warm this winter, and it won’t cost you a cent.

While the colder months allow us to get creative with our wardrobe, layering pieces in inventive ways to keep fresh and above all, stay cosy, some people don’t have that luxury. In Australia, more than 116,000 people were estimated to be homeless in Australia (Sensus 2016) and in Victoria alone it is estimated there are 24,000 homeless people.

When we’re tossing up between that oversized puffa, trench coat or just a classic faux fur coat, there are people out there in our community without a home, let alone a coat to keep them warm. That’s where Off Your Back comes in, an initiative encouraging people to donate their pre-loved coats created by Melbourne’s Toni Joel.

The key takeaways

  • Off Your Back coat drive returns for winter
  • The initiative encourages people to donate their pre-loved coats to go to the homeless
  • The drive runs until the end of August

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“Over 20 years ago, I was walking down Fitzroy Street, St Kilda and saw a man asleep on a park bench. The night was particularly cold, with a biting chill in the air, and I had the impetus to take the coat off my back and provide a layer of warmth to someone in need,” she says.

“I started thinking about all of the other people in need of warmth and had a parallel thought about all of the preloved coats hanging in my home and the homes of my friends. I garnered a small group of likeminded, and enthusiastic people to start a Winter coat collection drive called OFF YOUR BACK.”

The concept is simple: Toni wants to take the coat ‘off your back’ and put it onto the back of someone in need.

“The idea was that no money would ever change hands, it would be pure and simple with no collateral and only an email directing people to collect and take their pre-loved coats to be re-distributed to the staggering number of homeless in Victoria.”

Since that day, Off Your Back has come to life, resulting in nearly 150,000 coats being donated from generous Victorians across the state without costing one cent.

With several drop points across Melbourne and Geelong, and coat drives with friends, schools, sporting clubs, workplaces and more, The Salvation Army is able to go on to distribute the coats, ensuring they get to Victorian’s most in need.

So if you have hefty pre-loved coats taking up space at home (and let’s be honest, we all do), simply take them to one of Off Your Back’s convenient drop off locations. For those in Geelong, you can take them to Salvation Army Doorways Centre (26 Bellarine St, Geelong), or the Salvation Army Ocean Grove Thrift Shop (4-6 Marine Parade, Ocean Grove).

It’s outrageously simple to get involved and this way you know your much-loved items are going on to another life with people who really need them, which really beats feeding resident moths in your closet or landing in an op shop with a price tag.

Coat Drive runs throughout winter June 1st – August 31st. You can find out more information here.