Philly nonprofit helps formerly incarcerated citizens dress for success

Collection of Men’s Formal Shirts Hanging on the Rack
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The local nonprofit organization, The Wardrobe, uses clothing to inspire change throughout Philadelphia. And its newest program is continuing to do just that for some of the city’s most vulnerable.

Returning Wardrobe is a new program designed to eliminate clothing insecurity for those returning home after incarceration. The organization hopes to remove access to clothing as a barrier to community reentry and, ultimately, stable employment. The Wardrobe’s goal is to outfit and support the employment goals of 1,000 returning citizens this year.

“Clothing is not only about appearances — it is an essential need like food and housing,” said Sheri Cole, executive director of The Wardrobe, in a statement. “People living at or near the poverty line, like returning citizens, do not have enough money to purchase the right attire to conduct a job interview. And they often do not even have enough in their closets to change their clothes every day to meet with parole officers, teachers, or conduct personal business.

“At The Wardrobe, we believe that everyone and everything deserves a second chance. We are asking the public to clean out their closets and donate gently used or new menswear to help returning citizens look and feel great. We need everything you do including t-shirts, shoes, socks, and even underwear.”

The Returning Wardrobe program is made possible thanks to the leadership of State Representative Jordan Harris and ongoing support from the PA Department of Corrections, Office of Probation and Parole, and PA Department of Human Services.

“Helping formerly incarcerated individuals get off to a good start is essential to reducing recidivism, and employment is key to creating a sustainable foundation to re-entry,” said Harris. “The Wardrobe has done outstanding work helping Philadelphians and residents in surrounding counties fight clothing insecurity and break through barriers to employment and independence. It’s essential to a person’s self-esteem to look like the person they want to be, and The Wardrobe helps set them on that path.”

Returning Wardrobe is available to any Philadelphian who has recently been released from a federal, state, or local prison, including juvenile offenders, or has a history of incarceration and is currently unemployed. Any returning citizen in need of an appointment for clothing (professional or casual), is asked to visit or call 215-568-6693 Ext. 10 to request an appointment or learn more.

Organizations working with returning citizens can email [email protected] to sign up as a Community Partner at no cost, and learn how to refer participants for clothing.