Openly gay Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell went through his closet Tuesday morning and came upon two suits he never wears anymore.
O’Farrell brought them to City Hall where a month-long clothing drive has just been launched to benefit the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center.
“Whoever ends up wearing (these suits) will look absolutely fabulous,” O’Farrell promised at a morning press conference with City Controller Ron Galperin.
O’Farrell and Galperin called on city employees and visitors to City Hall to donate “gently used” clothing suitable for LGBT youth, some of whom are experiencing homelessness, to wear to job interviews and in professional workplaces.
Galperin, the first openly gay person elected to citywide office in Los Angeles history, pointed out that while homeless people face numerous obstacles to employment, those who are LGBT and gender nonconforming are “doubly disadvantaged.”
“With this clothing drive, we’re seeking to give people opportunities to get the jobs they want and to realize their dreams,” Galperin said. “One suit, one blazer, one pair of shoes can make all of the difference.
“We ask that it be gently used – hopefully stylish,” he added. “It’s a great opportunity to clean out the closet. And for those of you who are cleaning out your closet, that gives you a chance to buy more. So, it’s good for everybody.”
Simon Costello, the Center’s Director of Children, Youth & Family Services, said growing numbers of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness are turning to the Center for support.
In the past 12 months, the Youth Center has seen more than 1,200 people and the number of young people coming there for services each day has doubled.
The employment program helps young people find jobs by assisting with resume preparation, mock interviews, job training, internships and job placements.
In 2016, with the help of the city’s HIRE LA Youth Summer Employment Program, the Center was able to help more than 146 young people find employment.
Among them is Andre Vargas who has been able to land three paid internships and two seasonal jobs with the help of the Center’s programs and clothing closet.
“For a lot of young people like myself, access to professional clothing is a large barrier,” Vargas said. “When I first started applying for jobs, I didn’t own any professional clothing and I couldn’t afford to buy any so I was a little bit discouraged.”
But by having access to the clothing closet at the Youth Center, Vargas was able to find dress pants, jackets and ties and put his best foot forward in the workplace.
“This generosity improves and saves lives and I’m proof of that,” he said.
The drive seeks professional clothing in good condition, recently dry cleaned or washed, and wrinkle-free. It also accepts purses and shoes in good condition, and unopened travel-size toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
The effort is also in partnership with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, the office of Councilman Mike Bonin and L.A. Sanitation.
Clothing and other items will be accepted at drop-off locations in front of the City Controller’s Office on the third floor of City Hall East, 200 N. Main St., and the Mayor’s Help Desk on the third floor of City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., as well as Bonin's office in Suite 475 of City Hall, O'Farrell's district office at 1722 Sunset Blvd.