How your old jacket might be just the job

Beneficiaries of last year's Suit Amnesty

Ever considered what someone who’s homeless wears to a job interview?

If you’re trying to get back on your feet and into work or training, whether you’re homeless, long-term unemployed or disadvantaged, what you need is smart clothes, but what you make do with is mis-matched separates in the wrong size or style.

Charities, night shelters and hostels receive donations – from food to clothing and practical kit like sleeping bags – and there are plenty of great schemes that support people into volunteering, training or work (that’s if there are jobs to come by and employers willing to hire). But while someone might have the skills and experience for employment, what’s often missing is the confidence-boosting garb to help them look and feel the part.

So I was interested to hear that the second annual Suit Amnesty launches next month and lasts throughout May. The aim is to help homeless jobseekers back into work by encouraging people to gift their unwanted suits.

More than 2,000 suits were collected in last year’s campaign, going to 22 different charities. Sian Thomas, marketing officer at Newcastle charity The Cyrenians describes last year’s donated suits as “perfect for our back-to-work projects which are all about getting people off the streets and preparing them for working life”. She adds: “Owning a suit makes a massive difference and will help our service users achieve their full potential.”

The scheme works with charities like The Cyrenians and Manchester’s Booth Centre that run back to work schemes.

Businesses can take part, acting as drop off points, and boosting their social responsibility profile in the process (apparently some of the firms that took part last year reported up to 14% increase in web hits during the campaign).

Accessible drop-off points include a variety of businesses including The Marketers’ Forum in London, the Malmaison hotel in Newcastle,retailer T.M. Lewin in London and various health clubs, hotels, bars and banks. More information on the Suit Amnesty website.

By coincidence, as I was reading about the project, I also came across a great scheme, Undergarments for Everyone, started by University of the West of England student Ed Tolkien to distribute new underwear and socks to homeless people in the Bristol area.

Last December, Tolkien collected and redistributed hats, scarves and gloves to local people on the streets, but he says many told him the hardest thing to come by was underwear.

Cash donated via collection boxes at the university and at two Salvation Army charity shops in Bristol, will be spent on new pants and socks and given to two Bristol homelessness charities, St Mungo’s and the Julian Trust night shelter.

Sometimes the simplest of ideas can have a big impact.