SALT LAKE CITY — The Rescue Mission of Salt Lake hands out between 60,000 and 80,000 clothing items every year. With the cold winter months ahead, they are asking for the public's help to get the items they need.
"We desperately need coats and hats and gloves and appropriate shoes," said Chris Croswhite, executive director of the mission.
They have seen a decrease in winter clothing donations this year. Croswhite thinks the pandemic may have impacted their numbers.
"Because of COVID, and because we're afraid of being close," he said, "[it] has reduced the amount of jackets and hats and gloves, long underwear, socks [and] shoes that we have to give away to our homeless population."
With the lack of clothing to give out, Croswhite fears the worst with the harsh cold in the months ahead.
"Personally, I'm afraid," he added. "Will that contribute to them passing away because they don't have a blanket? Because they don't have a coat?"
On top of the lack of donations, Croswhite says homeless resource providers, like the Rescue Mission, have seen an increase in demand this year.
"We have an increasing number of homeless people in our community," he said.
According to the point-in-time count, an annual report released by the Department of Workforce Services that documents Utah's homeless population, the state saw a 12 percent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness from last year.
The count is released in January, which was two months before the coronavirus pandemic hit Utah.
"The homeless service community is expecting COVID to increase, over time, the number of people who are homeless [in Utah]," Croswhite said.
This increase is coupled with a loss of available shelter space to take in those who need the help.
"With the redistribution of the homeless into the new homeless resource centers, we have a net-negative of shelter beds [available]," he added.
In a statement sent to FOX 13, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said:
"We're working side-by-side with our county-wide partners at the Salt Lake Valley Coalition To End Homelessness to ensure there are sufficient and COVID-safe winter overflow options for our unsheltered population in the coming months. Some overflow resources have already rolled out with the opening of St. Vincent's and motel vouchers access. We'll continue to work together on closing any remaining gaps through the opening of a winter overflow shelter."
In the meantime, the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake is asking for the public's help to ensure everyone they serve will stay warm this winter.
"We need the public's help with coats, and with hats, and with gloves, and with boots," Croswhite said.
People can make donations through their website, or they can drop off clothing items at their shelter located at 463 South and 400 West in Salt Lake City. Croswhite says in-person donations are contactless and socially distant.