By Sara Beth Williams–
Kaylon McBride, a volunteer and board member with the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART), has been instrumental in helping bring the dream of a free, community clothing closet to life. Two years ago, she helped establish the Underground Clothing Connection inside Sunrise Mall.
McBride has deep roots in Citrus Heights, where she attended elementary and middle school. She graduated from San Juan High School in 1987 and then pursued a career in real estate and lending, which she still continues to do.
For three decades, McBride focused on helping people find affordable lending options through down payment assistance grants.
“Quite a few of my clients that I helped purchase homes for had been homeless previously,” McBride said, adding that even prior evictions didn’t prevent them from owning a home. In her volunteer work with HART, McBride now uses her knowledge of HUD’s financial assistance programs for both home-ownership and rental assistance to help homeless families who are seeking affordable, low-income apartments to rent.
McBride’s passion for helping vulnerable populations expanded toward students and youth when she began volunteering with the San Juan High’s prom closet, a place where students who couldn’t afford dresses could pick out a dress for prom. She said her passion grew from there and inspired her to become more involved locally.
“Citrus Heights is close to my heart,” McBride said in an interview. She began volunteering with HART in 2016 and then pursued her master’s degree in education, centering her studies around the McKinney-Vento program and the services it provides to un-housed youth.
The McKinney-Vento Act was established in 1987 and ensures educational rights and protections of children and youth experiencing homelessness. Educational institutions are allotted funds for an array of educational and support services to address the needs of homeless students in relation to ensuring they receive a free and appropriate public education.
The idea for a clothing closet was a collaboration between Citrus Heights HART and the San Juan district McKinny-Vento liaison. The initial vision was to create a mobile clothing closet, but after two years of collecting clothing, the amount of donations became too great for McBride to bear alone. At one point she rented a trailer to house all of the donations that poured in from the community.
Finally, she approached other HART members to ask for help in finding a fixed location to establish the clothing closet. The Underground Clothing Connection opened in November of 2020 in the Sunrise Mall, next to the former United Artist’s Theater.
Stan Muñoz, another board member with HART and a regular volunteer with the Underground, said local high school students helped encourage the idea and develop the concept of the store. “The kids said, why don’t we find a location away from the school, so we won’t have to embarrass these kids because they think they’re going into a poor kid shop.”
Muñoz also said students came up with the name for the store.
Inside the Underground, several articles of clothing are set up high on display along the side walls of the store. Other clothing is hung on horizontal and circular racks and grouped by age, gender, and type. Shoes, socks, undergarments and accessories like headbands, handbags, scarves and wallets are also available.
McBride said while clothes are free, the store has also been intentionally designed to be a nice place to shop, so families in crisis feel comfortable when they come in to look for clothes.
All clothing to the store is donated by members of the community. Clothing from the Underground is given to referred SJUSD families and local families who are in financial need and receive some form of social services, families who are un-housed or in unstable housing, foster youth and families escaping violence.
The shop is run by an all-volunteer staff and is currently open Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. McBride said she would like to expand their hours during the school year, and the store is always seeking more volunteers for their current days of operation.
HART’s mission is to help homeless individuals find long-term sustainable housing solutions. McBride’s goal is to help individuals who are chronically homeless identify the reasons behind their chronic situation. In the future, also wants to connect and collaborate with other local programs and entities in order to close gaps in homeless services and continue to find solutions for those who are un-housed.
McBride’s goal for the Underground Clothing Connection is for it to remain open forever, but she also wants to be able to “pass the management torch every year” in over to prevent burnout.
Residents who want to volunteer, who have donations, or who are in need of clothing can contact the Underground directly by emailing TheUnderground411@gmail.com.
By Sara Beth Williams--
Kaylon McBride, a volunteer and board member with the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART), has been instrumental in helping bring the dream of a community clothing closet to life. She helped establish the Underground Clothing Connection in November, 2020.
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