Baby, It's Cold Outside: Coat Donations Down 35 Percent This Year

Dozens of people lined up on a cold Christmas morning outside the New York City Rescue Mission in Chinatown hoping to find a donated coat that might fit and protect against the winter weather. 

It was part of the annual New York Cares coat drive: Tables of colorful parkas, down and top coats spilled over the tables as volunteers helped the homeless and needy find their size.

David Brown, 56, wearing a puffy down coat was looking for a top coat. He's been homeless for a couple of years and said when he stays at the Bowery Mission, his coat gets washed.  Otherwise, he said, it's hard to maintain a coat while living on the streets.

"It don't last too long, because see you get dirty, its gets worn and then you get messed up if you don't have somebody to wash it," he said. "If you're not constantly taking care of it, it don't last long."

New York Cares, known for its posters of a huddled and shivering Statue of Liberty has been organizing coat drives for 25 years. The organization received about 123,000 coats last year.  This year, however, it only has 80,000 coats to provide, according to the group's executive director Gary Bagley.

He thinks the surge in donations after Hurricane Sandy last year combined with recent warm weather may account for the 35-percent decline in donations this year.

"It's hard for us, on a warm day, to realize what it might be like to live on the streets when its 19 degrees out or 12 degrees," Bagley said. "By the time people realize how cold it is out, people already need the coats."

His group will be accepting new and gently used coats from now until February. Bagley said large men's and children's coats are always in high demand.

The New York City Rescue Mission expects to give out coats to 150 people this Christmas.