Sara Gatti does not engage in politics. She’s not one to take to the streets in protest, or fire off letters or phone calls to politicians.
Instead, Gatti knits. And in the wake of last month’s presidential election, the 24- year-old decided to use her knitting needles to show her support for those she feared might be even more marginalized under a Trump administration: the homeless.
Shortly after the election, Gatti called The Citizen to ask for help. She said she was interested in knitting for the homeless, but wasn’t sure what to knit, or where to give what she made—only that she wanted it to be near her home in Fairmount, where she often saw homeless people traveling to and from nearby shelters. This is part of The Citizen Social Action Coordinator Stephen St.Vincent’s job—he not only provides ideas for citizens to take action on stories, he also acts as a one-on-one civic engagement consultant for people who want to join us in making Philly better. Stephen did some research and came back to Gatti with an answer: ProjectHOME needed hats, scarves and headbands for its residents.
So three days before Christmas, Gatti gave ProjectHOME a sack of knitted presents, including eight items she churned out on her own. With the help of her team—friends, family members, even the mother of a high school friend outside the city—she dropped off 24 warm wintry gifts in total. Each had a message attached that said, “handmade, with love, for you,” and “you matter.”
That “you” referred to Philadelphia’s homeless, which ProjectHOME estimates numbers around 5,500. To Gatti, a handmade item comes with a certain degree of specialness that implies, “you matter.” She wanted to pass that sentiment on to the less fortunate.
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“In the wake of the election I can’t imagine what it feels like for someone who doesn’t have a home,” Gatti says. “I thought, I have this skill, I can reach out to other people with the same skill, [so] let’s try to do something good.”
By day, Gatti provides project support to architects. By night, from mid-November to just before Christmas, she knitted to support those nearby without a home. “I don’t know how many hours it took me,” she says. “[I’d] knit until I finished something and then I’d start another thing.”
Gatti says she is already planning to make her Christmas giving an annual event, and will round up others to join her. This year, because it was such short notice, she says she didn’t have as many partners-in-knitting—or donated items—as she would have liked. Next time, Gatti says she wants to add sweaters and mittens to the bag of goodies. And, she says she hopes to engage more directly with the homeless, perhaps giving the items to them herself and following up with them afterward.
In the meantime, Gatti is returning to her knitting needles. It’s never too soon to start on next year’s donations.
“I have a stash of yarn that I was looking at today,” she says. “I should just start now.”Photos by Sabina Louise Pierce