Porterville nonprofits host winter coat giveaway

Annual Winter Coat Giveaway provides a little warmth to people experiencing homelessness in Porterville

PORTERVILLE – An annual giveaway at the Porterville Welcome Center provided a show of good gesture by providing coats to people experiencing chronic homelessness.

At the giveaway, 124 individuals were given more than just coats, however. People were also provided with sleeping bags, shoes, mittens, hygienic kits, books, beanies, haircuts, optometry – eye care – services and vaccines for COVID-19 and Influenza. Kitty Highfill, co-chair of the coat, shoe and sleeping bag drive for the Porterville Local Initiatives Navigation Center (LINC), said as temperatures continue to drop, the center wants to express some humanity by helping the homeless population be a little warmer.

“We have a large population of people who live in the open, they live on the river, or they live in a tent or a cardboard box or under a tree, and it gets very cold in the winter,” Highfill said.

The giveaway aided 71 men, 53 women and, although no children were in attendance at the event, seven children’s coats were distributed. In addition to personal and hygienic items, pet supplies were also given away for homeless residents who needed them to care for their pets.

“For a lot of homeless people, their pet is the most important person in their life,” Highfill said. “So giving out stuff for the pets is really important to them.”

Highfill said the committee for Porterville LINC, a one-stop center that offers wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness, are passionate about helping those who are homeless and assist the community in whichever ways they can. A committee member herself, Highfill explained that while some people are desperate to find a home, there are some in the homeless population who are not receptive to the idea. She said they become uncomfortable with that lifestyle and have trouble being inside buildings after being without a home for so long, so LINC provides whatever service it can to assist them in their lives.

“Whatever we can give them. We offer it to them and hope that it makes their life a little bit easier,” Highfill said. “I would hope that if somebody I loved was ever in that kind of circumstance, that there would be somebody out there that would offer them a hand.”

Although almost everything was given away during the event, Highfill said there were some coats leftover. She said adult coats were left in the welcome center for any other homeless residents who need a coat, and all leftover children’s coats were taken to the Central California Family Crisis center.

This year, the organization was able to use coats both donated by the community as well as new coats, purchased with donated funds from the community as well as local businesses. Highfill said over the past few years, the organization could only use new coats due to COVID-19 regulations and protocols.

The Annual Winter Coat Giveaway was held by Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance (KTHA) with Porterville LINC and was hosted in partnership with Turning Point of Central California Inc. and the city of Porterville. The event took place on Nov. 2 at the Porterville Welcome Center at 140 S C St, which provides housing, case management and referrals to services and resources that help people who are experiencing homelessness.

Additionally, service providers such as Tulare County MDT Team, Kings View PATH program, Trinity Lutheran Church Book Exchange, Central California Family Crisis Center, Porterville Employment Connection, Family Healthcare Network and and Love Inc. were present to offer assistance and help with service referrals.

The event was made possible through monetary and tangible donations from Porterville community members as well as local businesses such as: JR Meat Co., Town and Country Market, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Grocery Outlet, Smee Homes Inc. and Chaguito’s. 

Monetary and hygiene items are accepted all year by KTHA for outreach efforts and to support the Porterville LINC committee in bringing additional services to the community.

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