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How socks are humanizing homelessness “one sock at a time” and how corporate partnerships accelerate the process

Adina Lichtman, of Knock Knock Give a Sock extended her sock-giving mission to include corporate sponsored dinners where employees of the firm dine with homeless folks. Only a small fraction of homelessness is represented by the folks you might run into on a city street. Most are regular folks and the dinners Adina organizes make that clear to participants.

Homelessness is one of the most intractable problems faced by our society. Currently, there are about half a million homeless people living in America, with more than 60,000 in New York City alone. While there are numerous funded public initiatives underway to help these people, including those in the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, it remains to be seen how effective they will be in terms of addressing the root cause of homelessness, which is the lack of affordable housing (currently, the U.S. is about 7 million units short of providing an adequate supply of affordable housing units). Consequently, it’s easy to become frustrated — and even depressed — over the lack of progress in addressing homelessness.

Adina Lichtman, founder of Knock Knock Give a Sock, is amply aware of how difficult it will be to solve the homeless problem, but she remains an optimist. Her good cause startup, germinated in a college dorm, evolved from a very simple idea: the idea that there are plenty of people out there with a surplus supply of socks who wouldn’t mind giving up a few pairs to aid the homeless, who must spend most of their day on their feet.

Over the next few years, as she and her team went about publicizing their effort and collected more than 50,000 pairs of socks that were then distributed to the needy, Adina began to become aware of what she calls “a massive disconnect” between the way that homeless people were being perceived by the broader population and the actual reality of homelessness. So she pivoted her organization to begin to bring donors — inside and outside of corporations — together with homeless people in sit-down dinner situations. Her goal here was not just to connect people and institutions with power, influence, and access to resources with those who need these resources, but to change the perception of homelessness entirely. As she puts it, the current mission of Knock Knock Give a Sock is to “humanize homelessness, one sock at a time, by turning transactions — the giving of socks — into meaningful interactions.”

Currently, Knock Knock Give a Sock is only active in New York City, but with luck and enough support, Adina hopes to extend it to other cities where the problem of homelessness is acute.

If you happen to have access to a supply of (new) socks you’d like to donate to Adina’s noble effort, of if you’d just like to connect with her, she can be reached on LinkedIn and also through the website knocknockgiveasock.org.

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