Peak performance

Clothing firm gives coats to the homeless

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A Sheffield firm has donated hundreds of winter jackets to groups working with homeless and vulnerably housed people.

Outdoor gear producer Dark Peak has been shipping boxes of specially designed coats to charities and homeless shelters after selling more than 1,000 jackets on a ‘one sold, one given’ pledge.

For every high-performance jacket sold online, the firm has vowed to donate a different coat, specifically designed to meet the needs of a person experiencing homelessness. Its features include a durable, water-resistant outer shell, thick synthetic insulation, a deep drawstring hood, long body length and no branding.

The firm sent around 400 to charities across the UK in November and will have distributed 1,000 by the end of the winter.

Groups to have received boxes of jackets over recent weeks include a refugee and asylum seeker support project in Leeds, a rough sleeper support group in Bradford and food banks in Sheffield and Weston-Super-Mare.

‘Social good’

Dark Peak co-founder, product designer Allen Holland, said: “Homelessness is an issue I’ve personally cared about for a long time. In Sheffield, like other cities, there is a lot of visible homelessness, which is a scandal in a country as rich as Britain.

“We wanted to get into the outdoor gear market and thought we could produce premium down insulated jackets and sell them direct to the customer for less than what they normally go for. We thought we’d try a different model and looked at firms that aim to do social good – either by giving away profits or another product.”

These include the shoe company Toms, which sends shoes to developing countries on a one-sold, one-donated model. Holland and his colleagues held initial discussions with charities to get their feedback, working with an American non-profit called One Warm Coat – which gives away more than 500,000 jackets to people in need every year. Homeless charities were surveyed to find out more about the spec and features users would need in the jackets.

The down jackets sold online are ultra lightweight and pack down as small as possible so they take up as little space as possible in a bag. The donated jackets use synthetic insulation and are harder wearing.

Holland said: “Down has less insulating properties if it’s wet and someone who is homeless can’t be expected to have a rain layer as a mountaineer would. We’d be giving them a soggy, useless mess.

“The jacket we give away is harder wearing and has a polyester shell material. There is a deep hood on a drawstring and the jacket is longer in the body than the other one so it helps keep people warmer. It’s not branded, so there should be less incentive to sell or be stolen. It’s not worth money but has the functional requirements people need on the streets.”

Fran Sullivan, chief executive of The Streetlife Trust in Blackpool, said some of the 30 jackets her charity has received have been used for Christmas presents for homeless 16 to 25-year-olds who use its emergency night shelter – with the remainder to be given out as needed.

She said: “Usually we manage clothing donations by hanging them up and letting people help themselves but with a brand new jacket there’s always a chance they could get sold, so we will instead give them out as people need them.

“They are really good coats – and it’s really empowering for people to get something new.  It’s so important to maintain people’s dignity when they are going through hard times.”

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