Project Ropa’s 2020 Impact Report

This report is our heartfelt THANK YOU to all our generous supporters, dedicated volunteers, passionate staff and committed community partners who helped us not only survive but thrive during a tragic and tumultuous year. Your support has truly meant the world to us.

2020 was an unprecedented and extremely challenging time for us all as we faced the COVID-19 pandemic and adapted to the new norm of wearing masks and socially distancing.

Since our founding in 2016, we have worked to empower the lives of those experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County. Until last year, that mission was built almost entirely around providing clean high-quality new and gently used clothes. Using a retrofitted van that served as a walk-in closet, we brought a new sense of hope and dignity to our clients by giving them a chance to choose pants, shirts, dresses, shoes and accessories that fit their size and style.

But last year, as the pandemic took hold, we had to pivot on many fronts. We had to pause for a while, to put in place safeguards to protect our people and our clients and to find work-arounds when the manufacturers and other primary donors of our clothes shut down. And when we were ready to get back on the road, we had to recognize that the new safety protocols greatly increased our operating costs as it slowed down our distribution system. We simply couldn’t reopen all four of our service locations.

Fortunately, we also recognized that there was another way forward. We learned that a number of companies were eager to donate large amounts of clothes—in some cases, pallets full—that had been purchased for now- cancelled promotional events. Clothing donations from individuals spiked as well. We also learned that many mutual aid organizations and nonprofit groups operating in areas that we didn’t typically serve—Hollywood, Skid Row and South Bay—needed help in responding to a massive surge in demand from both the chronically homeless and the newly homeless. Numerous outreach services had shut down suddenly in those areas because of the pandemic.

So we reorganized and reinvented ourselves. We reopened our two oldest sites—in Downtown (DTLA) and Echo Park—where we felt we could still provide direct service in a cost-effective way. But we also formed partnerships with the community groups to deliver supplies that they would distribute.

Our impact has jumped dramatically. Before the pandemic forced us to pause in March, we were serving about 800 clients a month. Now, at our two direct sites and in conjunction with our partners, we are helping 2,500 individuals and families on a monthly basis, a threefold increase in less than a year.

Clothes are still key to our operation. But today we also provide thousands of hygiene kits and face masks, along with bottled water, granola bars and fresh fruit. We even deliver surplus fabric to our partners to make additional masks.

Along the way in 2020, we saved tons of surplus clothes from going into landfills and we started adding employees to our small army of volunteers (two of the new staffers are transitioning out of homelessness). Looking ahead, we hope to produce more jobs by repurposing some of our donations into “upcycled” handbags for sale to the public.

Through all the obstacles and frustrations that came with 2020, we were happily surprised and inspired by the kindness and generosity of our supportive community. Without you, we wouldn’t have made it through the year.

The following report provides more details about our recent accomplishments and our ambitious plans for the future.

Our 2020 impact report can be viewed here.

With gratitude,

Caitlin Adler

Founder and Executive Director