Clothing closet now open at the Yellow House

Pictured: Some of the clothing available in the clothing closet — Photo credit to Rowan Segura

The Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement, or the Yellow House as many know it, has quietly started a new project designed to bring needed clothing to members of the campus community. As of this semester, the Yellow House started an open clothing closet designed to provide students with limited means the opportunity to have quality clothing.

The new closet is currently focused on providing winter goods and business wear. Pairs of boots, puffy jackets, hats and gloves are all available at the closet. Additionally, there are elements of professional wear such as blazers, work-appropriate shirts and nice shoes. The closet also has a few bottles of soap, lotion and other small toiletries.

The closet, located in the back office of the Yellow House, is a small operation. For anonymity, the closet has its own door, which prevents students from having to interact with employees of the Yellow House. However, this space is temporary due to the limited accessibility of the location. Stairs prevent some members of the community from accessing the space anonymously, forcing some to use the entrance that goes through the office. This is one of the main concerns of the Yellow House, and a driving factor for finding new space.

Skylar Bihl, the Assistant Director of Spiritual Life and Civic Engagement, spoke about the necessity of this project. “It’s expensive on this campus not only to just be here, but also to participate fully in the social environment of this campus,” Bihl said. She pointed out that the culture of Patagonia and expensive gear can make students feel isolated, as if they don’t belong. With this project, Bihl’s team has a goal of “making [students] feel like they belong here.”

The need is there, according to Bihl. “Over the last five years I have seen an increase in student need,” she said, also commenting on the continued use of the lending library and the food pantry. Bihl has seen that students are in need of these resources and the Yellow House is working hard to provide them.

The closet started from one of the Yellow House’s spring projects called Operation Save. At the end of the spring semester, students donate unwanted goods and local charities come sort through the materials. This is where the majority of the items in the closet are from, with a few things purchased out of the Yellow House’s budget. As this project continued, Bihl started to notice that students on campus were interested in the clothes.

“I started hearing pretty immediately that we had students saying, ‘I really can’t afford to buy new clothing; can I come pick some clothes?’” Bihl said. Since then, the need for these resources has been a serious consideration of the Yellow House, but up until recently there hasn’t been any space for the closet.

Previously, in order to provide this resource the Yellow House would host pop-up clothing closets, as a sort of short term attempt to supply the needed clothing. But Bihl and her team wanted to create a more long-term space. As of now this space has not been found, but the back office of the Yellow House is a step up from intermittent pop-ups. “How do we meet this need on a more ongoing basis?” Bihl asked as she and her staff continue to plan for the project.

Bihl envisions that the closet will grow. Unfortunately student needs continue to rise. Socioeconomic disparities make the clothing closet a necessary resource.

As of right now, the closet is not taking donations from the campus community. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to facilitate donations,” Bihl said. They do not have a system in place, or enough space to effectively collect clothing yet. However, Bihl imagines that community donations will eventually be accepted.

The clothing closet is in its beginning stages, still trying to find its footing and get organized. Bihl and the staff of the Yellow House are slowly trying to carve out space in the university to provide needed resources to its students. Though this project is just beginning, it is already in use. Bihl pulled eight empty hangers from the closet last week. Eight items of clothing, and soon to be many more, have gone to students in need.

The closet is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for those who need it.