Clothes rail for homeless replaced following theft

A second clothes rail providing free coats to the homeless has been installed in Bristol, just days after the first one was stolen.

Sarah Jade set up the rails to provide coats and scarves to Bristol’s rough sleepers.

The first rail was set up outside Waterstones in Broadmead on Sunday, but went missing the following day.

The initiative comes during Bristol’s Homeless Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of homelessness, and the risks homeless people face.

Clothes rail
Photo credit: Helen West

Bristol’s battle with homelessness is well documented, and Mayor Marvin Rees has described it as ‘a major issue’. The city has the second-highest levels of homelessness in the South West, with an estimated 74 people sleeping rough last year.

Coats for the homeless

However, people like Sarah are working to help at-risk individuals. She says the idea of the rail came to her after speaking with some of Bristol’s homeless. “I volunteered handing out some food on Christmas day around the Bear Pit in Bristol, and I spoke to quite a few of the people there about what’s needed,” she said. “The first thing they said they needed was just initial contact and acknowledgement that there’s a huge homeless issue going on in Bristol. The second one is having access points other than shelters to get clothes.”

“I thought I’d set up a little project that the public can come to and donate coats and anything warm, that homeless people can choose to access in quite a dignified way.”

When she checked on the first rail on Monday, she realised it had disappeared. The rail itself was eventually found – but the coats were gone.

Determined to continue with her project, Sarah set up the new rail on St. James Place, near Haymarket. She also created a Facebook group, to encourage people to donate their unwanted coats by hanging them on the rail.

Photo credit: Helen West

“I want to break down the wall between the public and the homeless, and just show the homeless people that we do care,” she said.

She wants as many homeless people as possible to be aware of the coats. “There are leaflets attached to the side of the rail, which people can take and hand out,” she said.

Bristol’s Homeless Week runs from 18th to the 25th February.

Related links:

Bristol City Council: Homeless Week

St Mungo’s Bristol

Story by:

Helen West (interviewing, words)

James Mead (video editing)

Duncan Chisholm (video editing)

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