As Winter Settles In, Non-Profit Aims to Distribute 200 Coats to St. Louis' Homeless


A model wearing one of the knee-length coats designed to with the homeless population in mind. - COURTESY OF ABBAS ALI
  • A model wearing one of the knee-length coats designed to with the homeless population in mind.

Despite the recent stretch of warmth, winter has already arrived in St. Louis. No population is hit harder by the drop in temperature than the homeless population, and November has already brought with it temperature lows of 17 and 18 degrees, as well as several instances of snow and frost.

That's where Project Downtown Saint Louis comes in. To aid its goal of helping the homeless survive the bitter cold, the non-profit has launched a GoFundMe campaign to provide specially made coats designed to keep those living on the streets warm.

Founded in 2012 by Abbas Ali, Project Downtown Saint Louis is a local chapter of the national group of the same name. Ali, who serves as the organisation's director, says its primary mission to is to provide meals, canned goods and groceries to those in need.

But all the food in the world won't help if you're freezing.

“You see people trying to sleep on under bridges, on the street. I think ‘What if that was me? Would someone help me?’” Ali says. “I want to be the person who does help.”

Ali says the organization’s members are always looking for ways to expand their services in order to provide more help to the homeless. Recently, Ali realized they were not receiving enough donations of winter clothes, and that many of the coats that were donated were not insulated well enough for the extreme winter climate facing those who will spend the coming months on the streets. He decided they “could be doing something even better.”

Project Downtown St. Louis usually encourages donors to give clothing items they do not use anymore. Now, they are also setting their sights on helping the homeless with brand-new coats

Specifically, Project Downtown St. Louis partnered with a Pakistani manufacturer to create knee-length coats designed with the homeless population in mind. The longer length combined with the hood and pockets allow for the coat to fully protect the wearer from the harsh elements of a St. Louis winter. In addition, the coats, which are packed with double insulation, are resistant to wind and water.

Each coat costs about $40 to manufacture. Project Downtown St. Louis hopes to provide 200 of these coats to those who need them, bringing their donation goal to $8,000. As of writing, they have gathered more than $2,400 towards their goal.

In the coming weeks, Ali hopes that he can begin putting together the packages that he and other volunteers will distribute around St. Louis. The packages will include the specialized coat as well as other pieces of donated winter clothing items, such as socks, shoes and gloves.

This latest effort joins Project Downtown St. Louis’ regular meal service. The organization serves free meals every Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 6809 Florissant Avenue.
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