Denver, CO

Denver store offers free clothes, haircuts, laundry to homeless

David Heitz

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One of the many unpleasant things about homelessness is walking around in stinky, dirty clothes.

Beating the pavement all day in the blazing sun can cause one to work up quite a sweat. And there is seldom anywhere for homeless people to sit down but on the ground.

So, homeless people – and their clothes – get dirty fast.

Homeless people for the most part have no way to wash their clothes. Shelters do not provide laundry facilities. There are laundry trucks run by a company called Bayaud Enterprises that set up shop outside the main library or other public buildings now and then. There is no charge to have a few loads washed.

But the truck’s appearances are few and far between, and slots fill up fast. The reality is that most people toss their clothes when they become dirty and stinky.

So homeless people often find themselves needing clothes at least a few times a week.

There’s where Impact Humanity comes in.

Free quality clothing worth the long line

Impact Humanity is a free second-hand clothing store for homeless people. It is at 2526 Welton St. near the Caldwell African American Library. The light rail runs past the front door.

There are no hoops to jump through. You don’t have to show any identification. You just wait in a long line (but it moves fast) for your turn to enter the store and pick up a few items.

You get to choose one item from each rack. Racks contain pants, shorts, shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, ties, hats, and more.

The store is open noon to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The store’s owner, Travis Smith, began the operation several years ago. Smith and others saw an urgent need to provide homeless people with cold-weather gear such as coats, scarfs, gloves, and hats.

From interview attire to street clothes

But now the store offers clothes of all types. You can find interview wear (business shirts, pantsuits, ties, nice dress shoes), street clothes (jeans, hoodies, sweatshirts, tennis shoes), outerwear, gloves, and hats. Impact even provides socks and underwear, which are in great demand on the street.

The clothes are in excellent condition, and the socks and underwear are new. The people who donate to Impact take great care of their clothing.

From time to time, Impact Humanity also gives away gear including sleeping bags, luggage, or backpacks.

Hygiene items such as deodorant, razors, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion also are available at Impact Humanity.

The power of volunteerism

“We want people to realize that one small action can ripple out and have a huge effect,” Impact proclaims on its website. “That it doesn't take billionaires or the government, just people who are crazy enough to want to change the world.”

The non-profit relies heavily on volunteers. On days a volunteer doesn’t show, the store doesn’t open.

“Most nonprofits rely heavily on grants or large, costly fundraisers,” the website explains. “While these things have their place, Travis realized having a volunteer staff, and asking volunteers to have skin in the game, that we could not only put everything that was donated back into our programs, but that Impact could also staff and expand, creating new programs to help serve those in need.”

You can donate to Impact Humanity by clicking here. You can learn about volunteering by clicking here.

Laundry, haircuts part of Impact, too

Recognizing the urgent laundry need in the homeless community, Impact Humanity partnered with downtown laundromats to create Loads of Love. Free laundry is available once per month.

“An individual or family might go days or even weeks without being able to clean or change their clothes,” Impact explains on its website. “You can imagine what this does for someone's confidence level, how they're treated by others or their ability to get a job.”

Impact also offers free haircuts for the homeless through its Shear Impact program. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.

The Shear Impact webpage features time-lapse video of a veteran experiencing homelessness who received clothes and a haircut from Impact Humanity. The transformation is remarkable.

At the end of the transformation video, you learn that Jim, an alcoholic, became sober and found housing after getting help from Impact.

Nice threads inspire confidence, change

Sometimes getting your life together doesn’t happen unless you believe you deserve it. Impact Humanity spreads humanity by making sure people experiencing homeless have a chance to look nice. This inspires confidence and positive change.

I received clothes, toiletries, and other items regularly from Impact Humanity while I was homeless. If I had time, I went every day they are open. There were times I wore nicer clothes from Impact Humanity than what I had before experiencing homelessness.

I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to Travis and his team of volunteers. Impact Humanity always provided sunshine during a terribly dark period of my life. I encourage anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of homeless people to consider supporting or volunteering with Impact Humanity.

My signature red suitcase on wheels

I remember once getting a pair of stylish boots from Impact Humanity that looked brand new. I had an extra spring in my step while I had the boots. Another time I received an expensive-looking western shirt with snap buttons.

And they even gave me a giant red suitcase on wheels once when I explained I had no way to carry a blanket.

I was one of those homeless people who pulled a suitcase. Others push carts or wear giant backpacks.

Call 720-629-2619 for questions, to volunteer, or for more information about Impact Humanity. The COVID-19 virus may have affected its hours of operations and services offered. Masks are required in the line outside and inside the store. The store practices social distancing, including in the line outside.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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