Cold Hits City, and So Does Coat Shortage

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Inside the coat donation operation at St. Bartholemew's.

Damian Geminder

Inside the coat donation operation at St. Bartholemew's.

A shortage of coat donations amid the frigid winter has left some of the city’s most vulnerable residents without the bare necessities.

New York Cares is out of coats after distributing the last of its 75,000 stock on Feb. 6, according to Katherine Kientiz, a service events officer for the charity. That number fell far short of the 103,000 requests for coats that came from the 480 public and private groups to which New York Cares supplies outerwear, Kienitz added.

“This is not New York Cares’ fault,” said Paul Fitzgerald, of Coalition for the Homeless. “They just do not have enough coats.”

Other charity groups also are reporting a big demand for coats amid the donations shortfall and harsh winter.

“There is still a need,” said Kim Smith, founder and director of Kim Smith Ministries, whose service arm, Helping Others Pursue Excellence, received coats that were distributed on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9.*

Smith’s group worked out of State Sen. Bill Perkins’ office and served 197* families, but requests continued to come in after the distribution ended.

This past year’s donations were roughly the same as the amount received in 2013, which were sharply down from 2012, when New York Cares and other charities saw an outpouring of support following Superstorm Sandy. This year, Winter Storm Juno, which hit the city Jan. 26, spurred a rush on coats.

“That snowstorm killed us,” said Adam Perry, who helps run coat distribution for the Grand Central Food Program, a project of the Coalition for the Homeless.

Fitzgerald reported another a spike in coat requests after Juno. When the city shut down all public transportation in preparation for the storm, many homeless who normally seek shelter in the subways slept outside, leaving their coats drenched with snow.

“We saw people because they said, ‘All of my stuff is wet,'” Fitzgerald said.

Manuel Carmona was among those seeking coats in the days after Juno, lining up with dozens of needy New Yorkers inside St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Midtown.

Carmona, 41, said he lost his coat when his belongings were stolen during a recent stay at the shelter on Wards Island. When Juno arrived, he kept warm at Bellevue Hospital, which served as a temporary shelter during the city’s “Code Blue” period, when the homeless were implored to seek refuge at various emergency sites.

Carmona took a yellow University of Michigan windbreaker from one of the several tables stacked with men’s coats located in St. Bartholomew’s food pantry. He also picked up a sweatshirt, but put it back moments later.

“I don’t want to be selfish,” he said.

* Correction: The name of Smith’s organization and the number of coats it distributed were corrected after initial publication.

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  • ScipioI

    At the shelter in the Bronx, where I work, I had placed a request for 200 coats in December. In February we received 180. NY Cares did a fantastic job. The application was simple and our clients got what they needed. I was quite satisfied with our transaction. Thank you.

    • Kim Smith

      NY Cares did a phenomenal job with the amount of coat donations they received! And, I expressed that when I was interviewed for this article. There were inaccuracies in the article that I’ve requested the reporter correct because although there is still a tremendous need for more winter coats, NY Cares did the BEST they could to meet the demand with the supply that the organization received.

      As a result of NY Cares generous donation to Helping Others Pursue Excellence, a Service of Kim Smith Ministries, 197 families (not 147) were served during the two-day coat giveaway. The Holy Ghost church received the remaining coats from the coat giveaway on Feb 10th (the day after the coat drive), in an effort to continue to meet the needs of the community.

      Thankfully, a total of over 200 (not 147) Harlem residents have been BLESSD by the NY Cares donations!

  • Kim Smith

    NY Cares did a phenomenal job with the amount of coat donations they received! And, I expressed that when I was interviewed for this article. There were inaccuracies in the article that I’ve requested the reporter correct because although there is still a tremendous need for more winter coat, NY Cares did the BEST they could to meet the demand with the supply that the organization received.
    *As a result of NY Cares generous donation to Helping Others Pursue Excellence, a Service of Kim Smith Ministries, 197 families (not 147) were served during the two-day coat giveaway. *The Holy Ghost church received the remaining coats from the coat giveaway on Feb 10th (the day after the coat drive), in an effort to continue to meet the needs of the community.

    Thankfully, a total of over 200 (not 147) Harlem residents have been BLESSD by the NY Cares donations!

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