Off the rack dignity for the homeless


Makayla Muscat

Chris Vagg and Jordan Brownlow with the community in Parramatta

As the homelessness crisis worsens, Pass it on Clothing & Co. are providing dignity to those sleeping rough in Parramatta and other parts of Sydney.

Founded by Chris Vagg and Olga Puga in 2016, the organisation is a Sydney-based social enterprise supporting the homeless and disadvantaged in the community.

“I started because Olga, my partner, had a wardrobe cull on me when I was away,” Vagg said.

A group of people standing in a room
Choosing clothes at Prince Alfred Square Park in Parramatta (Makayla Muscat )

“I did some research and found that the clothing that goes in the clothing bins never lands on the back of anyone here in need, and I had 170 pieces of clothing that I wanted to ensure landed on someone’s back.”

Every Wednesday at Prince Alfred Square Park in Parramatta, Pass it on Clothing & Co. provides new apparel, shoes and accessories free of charge. They also operate a weekly outreach service in Martin Place alongside monthly services in Arncliffe and Darlinghurst.

So far, the group has passed on more than 205,000 pieces of clothing.

Vagg and his stylist partner believe that choice is empowering and wanted to give their homeless “friends” the dignity of being able to look at the clothes on hangers and choose something that they like.

“If you’re in this space you have very few choices; we get to choose so many different things per day from what we wear to what we eat,” he said.

“If you saw any of the other services here tonight, a food provider who does a great job, cooks what they cook, and that’s what you’re given to eat.

“We wanted to do this as we would want to be treated this way, which is being able to choose something, and not just be given it, and just that action of being able to choose something allowed Olga to create a conversation with someone and say that’s your cut or that’s your colour.”

Jordan Brownlow has been volunteering with Pass it on Clothing & Co. for six weeks and feels privileged to be supporting an organisation that is bringing power back to the people.

“The biggest thing that I like about pass it on is the change in inspiration that it is bringing; it’s changing the way of volunteering and how these kinds of organisations run,” he said.

“It’s about changing the future and the outcome, because it’s easy to help but it’s hard to actually have that innovation to try and make the world a better place.”

Pass it on Clothing & Co. have the only subscription clothing bin in the world, and according to Vagg, it has been popular with profit businesses and an efficient way to generate stock that is fit for purpose.

“We’ve got 128 clothing bins out in the marketplace now, so we’re like the Netflix of clothing bins,” he said.

He believes that now, they are only offering a temporary solution to the problem and that more needs to be done to educate disadvantaged people so they can become self-sufficient.

Vagg and Puga are planning to expand their service and open a 100-day Living Academy to help people from public housing learn life skills like budgeting, cooking and how to rent a property.

“There’s no difference between someone who’s in this space and ourselves, apart from a key to a safe place,” Vagg said.

“This is a service for us, there’s no us and them. I am them; you are us. We’re all in this together.”