A man tries to retrieve items from a clothing donation bin in Vancouver. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Clothing donation bins a temptation for some

Red Deer’s Mustard Seed needs coats and winter footwear for clients

A local dumpster diver says digging into clothing donation bins doesn’t appeal to him, but he can understand why people try.

Wednesday night, he found usable office supplies and furniture in a dumpster. A few weeks ago, he pulled out a brand new pair of designer jeans. Once, he found a 16-inch plasma television.

“We’re finding all these things in the dumpster. That’s what people are throwing out, so what are people donating?” asked the homeless Red Deer man, who did not want his name used.

Recently, a Toronto woman died after getting trapped inside a clothing donation bin, and a Vancouver man got stuck in a bin’s opening and died. That’s prompted a call to seal the bins and investigate safer options for accepting donations.

Since 2015, there have been eight bin-related deaths in Canada.

“There are a lot of desperate people out there,” the dumpster diver said.

The man knew of a few people, mostly females, who have tried to get into the bins for the clothes. But he’s never heard of anyone getting trapped.

“The only way to stop it is to have the bins accessible. They are donations for people in need,” pointed out the homeless man.

Byron Bradley, Central Alberta managing director with The Mustard Seed, said he has never seen anyone trying to get into a donation bin, but reported dumpster diving is common.

“People that are in a desperate situation sometimes need to be creative to survive,” Bradley said.

The Mustard Seed does not have donation bins, but does accept clothing, and right now, could really use more winter coats and boots.

Clients will knock on the agency’s door in the middle of the night because their feet are so cold. Some with mental health issues, or some kind of substance struggle, or both, prefer to sleep rough outside, he said.

“We know a lot of people who will come in for supper, but they turn down our offer to come in for shelter. Sometimes, being on your own is most comfortable, even at -30 C. We just try to let people know we’re here for them,” Bradley said.

The Dumpster diver said on Christmas Day, he woke up in a container.

“It was cold, so after I was binning (Dumpster diving), I slept there for a few hours. It was comfy. Nobody even knew,” the man said.

Luckily, he has never been in a Dumpster when a garbage truck arrived, but he’s heard of others in bins getting picked up by trucks.

He said Dumpster diving isn’t lazy. It’s about survival.

“As far as binning goes, we have certain bins we go to. Every binner’s got a different schedule. They’ve got different bins for different weekends, different areas for different nights.”

He said security guards don’t mind Dumpster divers if they clean up afterwards. He also doesn’t search through bins behind locked fences, or inside locked bins.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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