Clothing and Goods

Giving the right stuff to the right places

We know you’re willing to give the shirt off your back to help a newcomer. But please make sure it's clean, undamaged — and sent to the right place.

Refugees sponsored by the federal government or by private citizens are given financial support to buy the basics for themselves. As a result, settlement agencies generally do not accept donations of clothing, and sponsorship groups generally arrange donations within their networks.

That's why Refugee 613 does not collect or distribute donated clothing. Instead, we encourage you to support the efforts of local agencies already serving refugees and other low-income populations, such as Saint Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Capital Welcomes. They each have their own system for accepting your donations and ensuring people on limited incomes – including refugees — can get clothing at little or no cost.

Homeful.ca, a Refugee 613 partner,  connects donors of clothing to the refugee community directly with an online digital bulletin board.   To make a donation, register your account by visiting http://www.homeful.ca/register/ or to benefit from the donations as a refugee or sponsorship group, email refugeelogin@homeful.ca and you will receive a special login code so that you can browse the site and make a wish list.

Beware of fraudulent services promising to direct your donations to refugees! Many of the collection boxes in the city are scams, and clothing dropped off there ends up being sold for profit. Ottawa City Councillor Rick Chiarelli has posted a map of legitimate collection sites here: http://www.rickchiarelli.com/syrian-refugees-clothing-collection-effort.html

We strongly urge you to contact these organizations first, especially if you have a large quantity of donations, as many are currently working at, or near, capacity.


Will my clothing donations go to Syrian refugees?

None of these organizations can guarantee donated items will go specifically to a Syrian refugee, only that they will be made available to a refugee or other vulnerable person in our community. Many local shelters and charities are reporting a shortage of donated clothing at the moment. Your generosity will allow them to help so many who would otherwise do without.

How can I deliver my donations directly to a refugee family?

Settlement agencies are encouraging donors to give to the agencies who have been doing this work for many years. Settlement workers are very busy meeting the housing, training and employment needs of their clients — that's what the government funds them to do. They do not have an established system to handle clothing donations, so their staff end up with bags of donated clothes under their desks because they don't have the capacity to distribute the amount that is being brought to them. Refugee 613 has found that most sponsorship groups arrange their own clothing donations within their networks, and we don't have the staff to match clothing donations from the public to specific groups. But you could try to find them by asking around in your network or looking for them on Facebook.

Are clothing donations useful?

If you want to give in the most efficient and effective way, money is more useful in helping sponsor and settle refugees in Ottawa. HL to donate money page. Clothing donations can be useful if they are clean, gently used and given to an agency equipped to distribute them to people who need them, but they are low on the priority list of needed items. Government-assisted refugees receive a clothing allowance on arrival in Canada. Private sponsorship groups have a budget for clothing as well, and often add to that by drawing on their own networks for donated items. Donated clothing would more useful to a refugee claimant, someone who has asked for protection of the state on arrival here, but they are a much smaller number than the sponsored refugees. This doesn't mean donated clothing isn't useful, but it does mean that the demand is not high among newly arriving refugees.

Why don't you welcome offers of donated clothes?

Answering questions about clothing donations and trying to connect donors to refugees or sponsor groups is time-consuming and distracting for agencies whose mandate is to help newcomers find housing, language classes and employment. Settlement agencies don't have enough staff to answer such inquiries, nor do they have storage space to accept unsolicited items. Refugee 613 occasionally posts calls for items on our Facebook and Twitter pages when our partners identify a need for something specific such as skates or toys.


This isn't a challenge unique to refugees. The following articles explain in more detail why donating goods usually isn't the best way to help in a crisis.