Got An Extra Coat?
This photo grabbed my attention. It is the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin on which local residents hung coats no longer wanted and welcomed anyone who needed one to help themselves. It sounded like a good idea, and similar projects followed in a few other cities. I started wondering, idly, about which Upper Valley bridge would be ideal.
Then I learned more. The project in Dublin was in 2019 and did not totally survive government bureaucracy. The Dublin City Council removed the coats for safety reasons, claiming the coats impeded traffic on this heavily traveled pedestrian bridge. Its actions caused an uproar amid claims that the Council’s real motive was to hide the fact that homelessness was growing in the city. Then a less controversial and more concrete problem arose—rain would soak the coats and render them unusable. A suggestion to cover them in plastic to keep them dry was rejected out of environmental concerns. Hard feelings arose when some people were seen scooping up several coats at once who might not have needed them. In other cities, local governments removed coats because they blocked the view of security cameras, including those used to try to prevent people from self-harm. The good people of Dublin persisted in their efforts again in 2020, addressing at least some of the problems by (as near as I can understand) placing the coats under a different bridge if signs of inclement weather.
There’s an alternative. As you read this, the Upper Valley Haven is sponsoring its annual coat drive—with a need especially for waterproof winter coats and gloves. From its Facebook page:
Help others stay warm this winter by participating in the Haven's annual coat drive! We are grateful to all those who have donated and still have a need for waterproof or water resistant adult winter coats and gloves. You can drop off new or gently used items at the Haven Monday-Friday 9am-3pm. (Please ring the front doorbell upon arrival for assistance.) Thank you!
Items can also be purchased online and shipped directly to the Haven at this address:
Upper Valley Haven, attn: Jennifer Fontaine, 713 Hartford Ave, White River Junction, VT 05001.
Any items not immediately used are donated to the local Listen Community Center or SEVCA (right across from the Haven on Route 5). As part of its assessment of need, service coordinators at the Haven can provide clients with vouchers for clothing from either place.
The Haven plans to accept donated coats and gloves through March. The need, however, is now. It’s winter.
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Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.
My daughter and I did this in Asheville, NC. It was heart breaking to see how many people needed a coat or sweater or mittens while living furtively on the streets of Asheville. I can only imagine how many need them now.