- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Organizations that collect warm coats for needy New Yorkers are scrambling to meet the demand as freezing temperatures approach.

Juan De La Cruz, who runs the Grand Central food program for the Coalition for the Homeless, said requests for coats start coming as early as October.

“Homelessness right now is at record highs. We have more people in the shelters,” he said. “We have more people out on the streets than ever.”

De La Cruz’s group has given away roughly 1,000 coats so far this season.

The city’s largest coat drive, run by New York Cares, is now in its 28th year. The group said it has received requests for 125,000 coats from schools, shelters, and social service agencies this year, the highest number of requests since Superstorm Sandy. Last year, they had 100,000 requests.

The group has collected just 20,000 coats as of last week. But, there’s still three weeks left in the drive.

New York Cares transports the donated coats to a midtown high-rise where volunteers sort them into men’s, women’s, infants and children’s and pack them into garbage bags. The bags are then loaded onto canvas hand trucks for pickup by organizations that requested them.

Glenn Archer, a computer operator from suburban New Rochelle, dropped off a coat at a New York Cares collection site.

“I see a lot of homeless people when I’m down in the city,” Archer said. “I know what it’s like to be down on your luck so hopefully they will go to a good cause.”

For those who find it hard to go to a collection site, New York Cares has rolled out a texting campaign called Cash for Coats. Donors can text COAT to 41444 to contribute $20 toward the cost of a new coat.

New York Cares executive director Gary Bagley said the texting initiative has raised more than $125,000, which would buy more than 6,000 coats.

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