Refugees feel chill from shortage of winter gear, Toronto charity warns

As the first snowfall of the season blankets Toronto, a clothing drive for refugees in the city's east end is feeling the chill.

With only 30 jackets and upwards of 150 visitors per day, GLOW clothing drive forced to turn people away

New Circles clothing program co-ordinator Kathleen Nicoll says with up to 30 winter coats in stock and upwards of 150 people looking for jackets every day, the organization is having to turn refugees away. (CBC)

As Toronto gets its first taste of winter weather, a clothing drive for refugees is feeling the chill. 

The charity New Circles, which focuses primarily on gently-used clothing with its service called GLOW — Gently Loved Outfits to Wear — is in desperate need of winter coats, toques and mittens. 

Kathleen Nicoll, the organization's clothing program co-ordinator, says amid declining temperatures upwards of 150 people come in looking for a winter jacket every day. But with only about 30 coats lining the racks at this time of year, she says there is not enough supply to meet demand. 

"We unfortunately have to let some clients leave without having a winter coat," said Nicoll, 

GLOW is asking Torontonians to hold winter clothing drives to help collect desperately needed winter jackets for refugees. (CBC)

Alykhan Suleman, executive director of New Circles, explains most families who come into their North York location are refugees and many have never experienced a harsh Canadian winter, not to mention snow.

"This is a very new adjustment to them, in addition to everything else that's going through their lives," he said.

"In the coming days, many of those who come here looking for help will be turned away ... It's a very difficult thing to do, to see somebody who walks in here looking cold, freezing, hoping that they're going to be able to get that winter jacket so that they can leave here much warmer."

GLOW Clothing Bank is in desperate need of these items:

  • Men's and women's winter coats, especially plus sizes.
  • Children's winter jackets, snow pants and snow suits.
  • Winter boots.
  • Winter accessories, such as hats, gloves, mittens and scarves.

New Circles volunteer Carolyn Langill has managed to get 2,000 winter coats donated in the last nine years. 

She holds an annual fall party called Cocktails for Coats to drum up donations. 

"What I do is I have everyone come for cocktails and ask them to bring at least one gently used winter coat," said Langill.

She donated 150 winter coats last week, many of which were swept off the rack. 

With files from Greg Ross