• March 2012

Philadelphia's KNO Clothing Makes a Difference

By Stephen Caldwell
Co-Founder
KNO Clothing

KNO Clothing is more than threads on your back. It’s about ending homelessness.

That’s why every time you make a purchase, we donate an article of clothing to those in need and fund organizations that help restore the lives of people experiencing homelessness in local communities.

How did we get the idea for this company?

I heard a person experiencing homelessness once ask, “What makes you so different from me?” It’s a question I never could get out of my mind. So I decided to spend an evening with a group of people who sit in the shadows and sleep in the streetlight.

They were real people with real issues—experiencing a lack of, among many things, a home.

I was fascinated to learn that on any given night, approximately 700,000 to 1 million people experience homelessness in the United States. Working, living, and entertaining in the city (in that order) has caused me to face the realities of homelessness.

At first, I found myself looking at people experiencing homelessness and thinking: “Why can’t they get a job?” or “They’ll just use the money for drugs.”

I ignored them; I acted like they didn’t exist. In short, these people—my neighbors—were an inconvenience to me. I’ve come to realize that homelessness has a name. Once I started to spend time with people on the streets, it was blatantly evident that each person has a story.

I met John on a cold winter night during our first “KNO Delivery Night.”

When I handed him a new pair of socks, he responded with a thankful embrace. He invited me into his “home.” He led me to a concrete corner full of tattered blankets and used shopping bags.

John then sat down, wrapped himself in a blanket, and told me his story. I asked him what was keeping him from going to a shelter and receiving the aid he needs. His candid response: himself.

He realizes that his choices led him to the streets, and it is through his choices that he will get off the streets.

I am grateful for the few minutes I was able to spend with John. For the first time, rather than ignoring a neighbor in homelessness, I welcomed the “inconvenience” and was purposeful in giving John a sense of dignity.

I have learned that I can do lots of little things that can make a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness in my community.

1. Look them in the eye. Smile. Acknowledge their existence, and bring a sense a dignity to their life as you pass by.

2. Learn a name. Introduce yourself, and find out who your neighbors are.

3. Listen. Most people experiencing homelessness live isolated lives and would gladly welcome the opportunity to interact with someone else.

What’s the answer to the question: “What makes you so different from me?”

It may be easy to answer at face value, but if you delve to the core of each person living in homelessness, we are all the same.

It is doubtful that the man or woman who sleeps on the sidewalk stood up in 3rd grade and said he or she wanted to become homeless when he or she grew up. It’s easy to be judgmental, but I’ve learned to look at each person experiencing homelessness as a fellow human being.

That person is not at all an inconvenience but deserves dignity and respect.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

Buy One, Give More: When you shop at KNO, we give 50 percent of our profits to help end homelessness. Your purchase provides an article of clothing to someone in need and supports the work of our partners in more than 100 different communities across the United States. To date, our partners have housed more than 11,000 people. Since October 2010, KNO Clothing has also donated 500+ articles of clothing to our neighbors in need.

Housing is a Right: Housing is a human right under international law. Yet, more than 100 million people worldwide still experience homelessness. In the United States alone, roughly 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. This includes the mentally ill, military veterans, business people, actors, artists, mothers, and fathers. Youths no older than 15-17 years of age are also living on the streets, or in cars, motels, or on couches.

Clothing: The need for clothing is a basic one. Just like shelter. But like the need for shelter, it often goes ignored. KNO Clothing gives people the clothing they ask for. This usually means socks, which helps people experiencing homelessness to stay warm, stay dry, and stay clean during a difficult time in their lives.

Family Partners: The solution is in our family. KNO Clothing has been adopted into a family with the Bethesda Mission and the 100,000 Homes Campaign. Staff and volunteers from both organizations are deeply invested in communities. They are the hands and feet of this mission to end homelessness. Together, we provide homes where people can replenish, regroup, and reintegrate.

Good Threads: KNO uses fairly traded and organic cotton or a sustainable blend of organic cotton, recycled polyester, and natural rayon polymers. That means our clothing is made with the people who made it in mind. Doing so supports living wages for workers and protests slave labor. We support eco-friendly growing methods, which keep people and the environment safer, and we support the community involved in making sure these processes only get better.

Click here for more information about KNO Clothing.

T-shirts, pictured above, from top to bottom:

  • Picture 1: (From L to R:) Water Polo shirt, $30, It Goes Without Saying shirt, $25, The Perfect Anytime Dress, $40, Pullover Hoodie, $40, Floral Dress, $40
  • Picture 2: 100,000 Homes shirt, $25
  • Picture 3: Fashioned to Love shirt, $25
  • Picture 4: Popsicle shirt, $25