AUSTIN, Texas — A group of Methodist men have been working to clothe men experiencing homelessness in Austin for 20 years.
- Homeless Men's Clothes Closet celebrates 20 years
- Subsists solely off donations
- Meets every Monday to pass out clothing
Every Monday, men from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless line the hallway inside the Central Presbyterian Church downtown. All of them must have a ticket showing they're eligible for clothing; there's a three-month rolling period for shoes.
Brandon Pleasant was in line again on Monday.
"I've got things like underwear, T-shirts, sweaters, even a suit," said Pleasant.
Each man who comes in is matched with a volunteer who helps to pick out clothes based on size and need. Customers are asked about particular styles, helping each person get something they actually want.
The volunteers are mostly retired men, all from different Methodist churches around Austin. Ralph Eckwall was the president of the Capital District United Methodist Men in 1999 - that's when Eckwall was approached by clergy about forming the Homeless Men's Clothes Closet.
"Our first location was in the old office where you go pay your city utility bills. It was about as big as a four-foot square," laughed Eckwall.
The group's current location, a meeting room that hosts an Alcoholics Anonymous group immediately after they stop handing out clothes, is more than double the size of its original one. While still small, the group of mostly gray-haired men, manages to serve upwards of 50 people every Monday morning, except for holidays.
"We treat them like friends," said Eckwall. "We want them to feel like they've had a good experience here."
For many it's about finding the right outfit for a job interview, applying for an apartment or simply need clothes to keep warm. But for Pleasant, the clothes have a deeper meaning.
"They're worth something man, like spiritual presence and everything," said Pleasant. "I mean it's something new, it's not a bad vibe of the past."
The Homeless Men's Clothes Closet subsists solely off donations and willingly accepts cash donations as well. If you're interested in learning more about the organization or wanting to help, visit their website.