During the cold winter of January 2019, a clothes rail was left outside Holy Redeemer church in Clerkenwell, Central London. It was filled with coats, scarves and hats and could be used by people sleeping rough in the area or anybody who required warm clothing. The rail was then replenished each day by volunteers.
The idea was simple: If you are cold, take an item of clothing. If you can help, leave one.
Journalist Stefan Simanowitz, who launched the initiative, was blown away by the response. Clothes rails popped up in 30 towns and cities all over the UK. The idea even took off internationally, with copycat versions in parts of Europe, the US and Canada.
Rails were put out again in January 2020 and now organisers have relaunched the scheme for a third winter. They hope Take One Leave One can replicate its previous successes, particularly in a world that has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s helping people now who are facing hardship because of Covid,” Simanowitz told the Big Issue.
“You don’t have to be homeless or a rough sleeper, you just have to be in need. If you feel you need a coat or some support then it’s there. It’s not policed, it just looks after itself, it replenishes itself.”