Montrealers urged to hang old winter coats on new 'wall of kindness' to help homeless stay warm

In the market for a new winter coat this year? Montrealers will be able to hang one they no longer need on a wall from Nov. 14 to 27 to be donated to a person experiencing homelessness. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC News - image credit)
In the market for a new winter coat this year? Montrealers will be able to hang one they no longer need on a wall from Nov. 14 to 27 to be donated to a person experiencing homelessness. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC News - image credit)

With Montreal expecting its first flurry of snow on Wednesday, a new donation effort in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough is kicking off to help keep the city's homeless population warm this winter.

Starting Monday, Montrealers will be able to hang a winter coat they no longer need on an outdoor wall, which will then be donated to a person experiencing homelessness — an initiative called the "wall of kindness."

"It's from the bottom of the heart when you give something —  that's what you're doing," said Éric St-Arnaud, CEO of Renaissance, a Quebec non-profit organization with thrift stores and liquidation centres across the province.

Renaissance will collect the coats from the wall twice a day until Nov. 27 and then delivery them to the Old Brewery Mission shelter on Dec. 5.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC News
Kwabena Oduro/CBC News

Located at the corner of Iberville and Masson streets, the initiative is the first of its kind in Montreal.

The concept began in the Middle East in 2015, and the project has been popping up around the world ever since.

Marie-Pier Therrien, a representative for the Old Brewery Mission shelter, says the initiative couldn't have found its way to Montreal at a better time.

"It's always a struggle to collect right now, more than ever — everybody is a bit more tight on budget, there's inflation going on, so keeping our residents warm is always a priority," she said.

She says the pandemic also led to an increase in homelessness in Montreal and some of the resources that opened last winter are still running at full capacity.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC News
Kwabena Oduro/CBC News

St-Arnaud says the initiative is an extension of Renaissance's mission and that bringing a large quantity of jackets to those living on the street is the ultimate goal.

But, he says, he's also hoping that getting the community more involved in giving back will help make it a habit.

"When we have stuff that we don't need to use, we should give it to a non-profit organization," he said.

St-Arnaud says the plan is to expand the wall-of-kindness initiative to other pockets of the city in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Montreal will be getting a second wall in the coming days, which will be set up at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bourbonnière streets.

"I think this could be the start of something great for the future," said Therrien.