The saying goes “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” and then you will be able to understand their story. But would you walk a mile barefoot? How about for the rest of your life?
In recent years, Denver witnessed an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness with the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative reporting first time homelessness doubled from 2020 to 2021.
The founder of The Clean Sock Project, James Pierce, and his wife Barbara Pierce, are taking the steps to give people living on the streets of Colorado the chance to walk with a pair of brand new socks.
After walking the streets of Denver and interviewing people experiencing homelessness, James listened to a problem that people living on the streets face, but many may not recognize.
“They told me, ‘Man, we can get anything. We can’t get socks,” reminisced James.
The Clean Sock Project is a nonprofit organization created in 2015 that delivers clean socks to people experiencing homelessness here in Colorado. The idea came to James in what he called a “vision,” or “epiphany” from God.
James wanted people experiencing homelessness to know that The Clean Sock Project would be there to provide them with a pair of new socks. He chose to seek crowds of people who needed a new pair of socks after discovering random locations through word of mouth.
“A lot of them just thank you. They’re so appreciative. I saw so many times socks that had just been molded into their feet. They wore them for so long,” said Pierce.
The family paused their efforts with the Clean Sock Project for almost four years to devote their love to Andrew Murray who he called his ‘brother,’ or ‘The Dukester. He lived with Pierce and his wife when the couple decided to become full-time caregivers for ‘The Dukester’ who was 72 years-old but mentally stopped growing after the age of six.
“We were able to find a reciprocator for the love that we still had… So, we were able to give it to him and take care of him,” said Pierce.
After attending many Colorado sports games, building a collection of over 3,000 matchbox cars with him, and final visits to the hospital, the Pierce family said their last goodbyes to ‘The Dukester’ in June 2021. James Pierce decided to re-establish the organization to devote his love to others, once again.
“I think that’s where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing until I get a different word,” said Pierce.
Pierce buys the socks himself. Stored in his home are the summer and winter socks that differ in the thickness of the material for the different seasons. He only delivers white socks with a gray heel and toes, or gray socks with a white heel and toes to prevent the risks of harmful dyes for those who wear socks until they become almost embedded into their feet.
“If your feet aren’t right, your whole body isn’t right… I think [people experiencing homelessness] deserve at least one good thing in their life that’s on the same level. I want them to know that they are good enough, they get brand new socks. I want them to proudly put on a pair of new socks and feel good about themselves,” said Pierce.
With hope in his eyes, he spoke about the future of The Clean Sock Project that will change the way people living in the streets of Denver get their new pair of socks. James says that in the years to come, the organization wants to deliver a pair of socks with the drop of a personalized coin into kiosks. He expects these kiosks will be set up all over Colorado and expand into other states.
For James Pierce, the path he walks is to find purpose by listening to the people experiencing homelessness in the state he adores. Now, he wants to walk alongside those experiencing homelessness to understand their journeys by “bettering the world one pair of socks at a time.”
The Clean Sock Project accepts monetary donations to ensure acceptable socks are given to people in need. To learn more about how to donate or volunteer, please visit clean-sock.com or call 303-995-8148.