Here’s some quick math: If one person had 15,000 pairs of underwear, they could wear a new pair every day for close to 30 years.
At Bissell Centre, we give out 15,000 pairs of new underwear to our Community Members every six months – and the need is still growing.
Underwear isn’t often the first need most people think about when they want to support folks experiencing poverty. Oftentimes, clean underwear makes a huge difference not only in someone’s personal feelings and outlook. It can also help with physical and mental health issues that can be life-changing.
Physical Health Benefits of Clean Underwear
Underwear accumulates a lot of microbes from your body and collects bacteria that can fester without washing. Not only is that an awful odour to try to live in, but it also sticks to the skin and, if left for too long, can lead to infections. It’s even a direct cause of kidney failure and bladder cancer.
Changing into clean underwear is the only way to reduce that risk. If we have no underwear to give out to folks, it’s likely that many more people will be going into emergency rooms and dying from something so easily preventable.
Mental Health Benefits of Clean Underwear
A lot of difference can be made with a little more comfort. A stop by our Community Space includes a hot shower, a meal, some time to do laundry, and a stop by the Community Closet for some fresh clothes. Those four steps are crucial to folks deciding to take the next step and look for help to find their way out of poverty. When you’re working through hard times, fresh underwear is priceless.
This is where we build trust and watch their self-confidence grow. They’re not afraid to talk to people anymore. They’re okay opening up about what their goals look like. Then they start to feel dignity and understand they are worth more than their challenges or their situation. This is when they reach out for help with their mental health, addictions, housing, and employment.
15,000 Pairs of Underwear Donations are Needed
For as long as Bissell Centre has been giving clothes to folks who need them most, underwear has been the single most requested item – but it’s also the least donated. That’s why, each year, we run the Drop Your Gonch campaign. Folks don’t often think about underwear – it’s an embarrassing topic. It’s also an important topic – especially for folks in our community.
Make sure to check out the Drop Your Gonch information page for drop-off locations, donation wish lists, and lists of items we can’t accept.
And think of underwear the next time you get a bag of donations together. Pick up a fresh pair on your way and drop them in the bag. A quick extra step could change a life.
…Sadly, this is a decision people experiencing houselessness have to make every single day.
For 6these folks in Edmonton, gaining access to new, clean underwear is difficult. Some individuals may wear the same pair of underwear for months at a time, and some may go without underwear for just as long. Underwear is an issue we don’t often consider but can be a serious problem for those in the community.
Underwear is one of the most requested items by the people who use Bissell Centre services, but one of the least donated items.
“It doesn’t feel comfortable when you’re not wearing any underwear, and no one likes to put dirty underwear back on after a shower. Women have accidents; they need access to clean undergarments.” – Angie
So, let’s pass the question on to you. Would you rather wear dirty underwear, or go without?
Let’s weigh each of the options:
Wear Dirty Underwear
Wearing dirty underwear may not seem like a big deal at first, but as the weeks pass, bacteria and microbes will accumulate causing an embarrassing odour, irritating rash, and infection on your skin down there!
If you’re a woman and you have a leak or accident during that time of the month, you’ll have no choice but to continue wearing the dirtied underwear, which can contribute to even more bacteria and microbe growth.
Not to mention, after you shower and get all squeaky clean, you won’t have a fresh pair of undies to slip into and will have to pop on the smelly, old, bacteria-ridden pair.
Go Full Commando
Going without underwear sounds fun —“freeing” even —but what happens when the inevitable chafing and skin irritation come along with it? You’ll have to deal with that gnarly skin rash for weeks on end!
If you’re a woman and do not have access to female hygiene products, this decision could result in the use of unsanitary or improvised hygiene products, which could lead to an infection.
Without the barrier of underwear, there’s a higher risk for foreign bacteria to make contact with your skin. Among other issues, there’s also a greater chance of fungi development because your underwear isn’t there to absorb your sweat.
Wearing underwear is something that we often take for granted, but when faced with a decision like this, it is easy to see why clean underwear is so important to those who don’t always have access to it.
When a person experiences houselessness, underwear issues can contribute to a multitude of larger health problems and discomfort. For many people, especially folks experiencing poverty and houselessness, the availability of fresh, clean underwear makes all the difference.
This is why we created our #DropYourGonch campaign: so that no one in our community would have to make the decision between wearing dirty underwear, or going without.
The Drop Your Gonch campaign aims to fill gaps in the Bissell Centre community closet by reaching out to our supporters to help stock it full of new underwear for folks experiencing poverty.
The clean underwear donated by our supporters helps to provide our community with better personal health and hygiene, and a restored sense of dignity and self-worth.
Yes, everyone needs clean underwear, including folks experiencing houselessness.
New underwear is one of the most requested items by people who use our services, but one of the least donated. People are often denied their requests for undergarments because we simply have none to give.
Women are especially likely to be denied since women’s underwear is less frequently donated than men’s. When possible, they are offered the alternative of wearing men’s underwear, an experience that, apart from being physically uncomfortable, causes embarrassment and a reduced sense of self-worth. Our #DropYourGonch campaign aims to fill this desperate need by stocking our Community Closet full of clean, fresh underwear for participants to use.
We all know that it’s important to change our underwear every day, but some of the reasons why may surprise you. Here is a list of five reasons why clean underwear is critical for a person’s physical and emotional well-being and why everyone needs clean underwear to be happy and healthy.
Not changing your underwear regularly causes microbes and other bacteria to accumulate and fester, often causing an embarrassing odour and an itchy rash on the skin. To maintain hygiene and cleanliness, fresh underwear is a non-negotiable essential.
Wearing the same underwear for an extended period of time can also have severe consequences for your personal health. The microbes and bacteria mentioned above can cause dangerous infections if they stay in contact with the skin for long periods of time, and the most serious of these can even lead to deadly conditions like kidney failure or bladder cancer. Clean underwear is more than a convenience; it is imperative to one’s health, and can even save lives!
We offer free shower services in our Community Space, meaning participants who come in can get soap, shampoo, a razor, and other personal hygiene items, enjoy a hot shower, and leave feeling squeaky clean. And what’s the best part about taking a shower? Slipping into that nice, clean, fresh pair of undies when you’re done, of course! Our objective is to be able to provide every participant who uses our shower services with a clean pair of underwear. With your help, we can offer every participant that “just-showered-and-slipped-into-a-fresh-pair-of-undies” feeling, lending at least one small comfort to the people who need it most.
The unpleasant odours and other adverse health effects caused by dirty undergarments can create something of a psychological barrier between the wearer and other people. Inevitably, the individual’s self-esteem and comfort in social interactions may suffer as a result. This impediment can be especially detrimental when it comes to significant interactions, like job interviews – situations that are already stressful enough without any added worries! A clean pair of undies allows the wearer the confidence they need to have successful relationships and social interactions.
A clean pair of underwear can go a long way toward restoring an individual’s sense of dignity. The emotional toll of having to wear the same set of dirty undergarments for days, weeks, or months on end can be debilitating. A clean pair of underwear is more than a physical necessity – it can provide the recipient with a rejuvenated sense of dignity and self-worth. What gift could be more meaningful?
It’s easy to take for granted something as always having clean undergarments to wear every day. But everyone needs clean underwear and deserves it. For many people lacking basic life necessities, something so small really can make all the difference.
This past year brought a lot of positive change and much to be celebrated. Each change has brought us one step closer to our goal of eliminating poverty in our community. Thanks to our incredible supporters, we saw some huge successes and were able to better serve our participants’ needs. Here are 7 of the most notable happenings of 2018.
1) Supporters Raise $78,000 in Winter Walk Fundraiser – Sponsored by DistributionNOW
On February 24th, Edmontonians walked 2, 5 or 10k in the shoes of those experiencing poverty and homelessness for our first year hosting the Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) national fundraising walk. Over 340 walkers and 61 teams came together and walked in freezing temperatures to help us raise over $75,000 for our programs, while local businesses like LOVEPizza and The Nook Café provided warmth and treats for our walkers. #WalkForBissell again on February 23rd during this year’s Coldest Night of the Year.
2) Newly Renovated Community Space Opens
On June 11th, we officially opened the doors of our newly renovated Community Space! Our new space has dramatically improved people’s ability to access services to meet their basic needs, connect to supports, develop skills, and build relationships, all of which are essential to overcoming poverty and homelessness. Our thanks goes out to Inter Pipeline and other amazing supporters that provided the funds for this project. Learn more and watch the video tour here!
3) Over 20,000 Bottles of Water Donated During Heatwave
This past summer in Edmonton brought record high temperatures and relentless heat waves. In response to our social media callout, generous individuals and numerous companies donated over 20,000 bottles of water to keep people on the streets hydrated, in addition to summer clothing and other readily available supplies like hats and sunscreen. Thanks to the support of our community, our participants were able to keep cool and hydrated during the hot, summer days.
4) Funding Received to Continue Eviction Prevention Program
In November, we were thrilled to announce that funding had been renewed for our Community Bridge Program! This program helps our participants prevent imminent eviction and provides interventions and services to ensure the causes of the eviction are effectively addressed to prevent re-occurrence. Thanks to the generosity of our partners ENMAX, Edmonton Community Foundation, and EndPovertyEdmonton, participants like Millie and Wendy will continue to have a safe home to return to at night.
5) Over 9,000 Pairs of Underwear Collected During Annual Drive
In July, we held our 5th annual Drop Your Gonch Underwear Drive. Underwear is one of the most highly requested, yet least donated items for our participants. This year, the local community blew us away with their support. We originally set out with a goal of 5,000 donated pairs, but once the donations started coming in, we increased it to 6,000, then 8,000, and ending up collecting over 9,000 pairs! The underwear donations helped us bring dignity to those experiencing homelessness, and we couldn’t have been more grateful.
6) Initial Funding Received to Expand and Relocate Childcare Centre
After 45 years in operation, our Childcare is expanding to meet the needs of even more families in Edmonton. We will be creating 30 new full-time spots for our accredited childcare services, in addition to the 40 free respite spots already available. Our current facility is too small to accommodate the expansion, so we will be moving to a new location in the heart of the McCauley community. While the initial funding has been secured to move forward with the project, we are still in need of additional funds to complete the renovation. Check out the initial design renderings of the new Centre here. Interested in supporting and learning more? Please contact Kelly Hoskins.
7) Participants get Cooking in New Community Kitchen
In October, we opened the Community Kitchen in our new Community Space. After identifying a lack of basic cooking knowledge as a barrier to keeping newly-housed individuals in their homes, we developed programming that allows participants to build skills, improve health, and foster relationships through cooking classes, workshops and community meals. Our participants have made some delicious meals together, including Ham and Corn Chowder with Bannock, Roasted Chicken with a Pineapple Ginger Glaze, and Shepherd’s Pie. Yum! Learn more about our Community Kitchen here.
We are humbled by the continued support of our amazing community. The work we do at Bissell Centre wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of people like you!
From all of us here at Bissell, THANK YOU for helping empower people to move from poverty to prosperity! We can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring!
Help create more memories like these by joining our family of supporters today. Make a donation.
UPDATE: Because of your help, we collected 2,154 pairs of NEW underwear for the homeless folks in our community. That’s 1,154 above our initial goal of 1,000!
We are excited to host our 2nd Annual #DropYourGonch underwear campaign encouraging the public to donate NEW underwear for homeless people in Edmonton.
The campaign starts Monday, July 20th and wraps up with a main event on Saturday, July 25th at our Thrift Shoppe (8818-118th Avenue) from 10:00am – 4:00pm.
The goal of the campaign is to collect 1,000 pairs of NEW underwear to meet the need through to the end of summer.
Underwear is one of the most asked for clothing items by people in the inner-city community, but one of the least donated.
The campaign also promotes health and hygiene, while boosting self-esteem and confidence, which are crucial for people who are transitioning out of homelessness. People living on the streets may go months without a new pair of underwear, which creates discomfort and a lack of dignity as they struggle to get off the streets.
For more information about drop-off locations, how to donate online, and to learn more about the campaign, please visit our webpage.
Bissell Centre and Mayfield Toyota hosts #DropYourGonch, a one-day underwear drive event urging the public to donate new underwear for the homeless in Edmonton. Free food will be provided by Century Hospitality and there will also be entertainment and door prizes.
The goal of the event is to collect 1,000 pairs of new underwear in support of Bissell Centre to provide comfort for people in need!
Underwear is one of the most asked for clothing items by those who are homeless, but one of the least donated. By reaching our goal of 1,000 pairs of new underwear it would allow us to provide approximately 20 fresh pairs to people in need every day throughout the summer.
A gift of new undies would mean so much and we’d love it if you’d join us!
#DropYourGonch Event Details:
When: Saturday, June 21st
Where: Mayfield Toyota (10220-170 street)
Time: 10:00am – 3:00pm
For more information about the event, please click here or contact Devin Komarniski, Acting Manager of Marketing & Communications, at [email protected].