UT alumni launch The Outfitting Project, help homeless sock it to poverty

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Clifton Hayes, right, an employee at Mitscoots who was formerly homeless, prepares labels for a shipment of hats for distribution. Mitscoots is an Austin-based company that donates one pair of socks to the homeless community for every pair purchased.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

While on a donation run, UT alumnus Tim Scott watched as a young boy peeled off a filthy pair of socks he didn’t remember putting on. As Tim handed the boy a new pair, he watched as he began skating across a gymnasium floor, unable to contain his excitement.

After realizing a company dedicated to providing socks to the homeless didn’t exist, Tim and UT alumna Agata Scott decided to create their own. In 2012, the couple started an Indiegogo campaign to fund Mitscoots, a company that donates a pair of socks to homeless communities across the country with every purchase. Last week, Mitscoots launched The Outfitting Project, which expanded donations to include hats, gloves and scarves in time for the holidays.

Mitscoots, which Tim said is 100 percent driven by the needs of the homeless, makes all of its merchandise in the U.S. to ensure consumers know where the products are coming from. The company aims to make the socks functional and sustainable for those who need them to last.

“We’re not trying to sell stuff — we’re trying to sell the idea and belief of the structure,” Tim said. “If the end goal is helping other people, you always know what decisions you can and can’t make.”

Mitscoots partners with organizations such as the Salvation Army and Mobile Loaves and Fishes, donation stations that Tim and Agata volunteered at as undergraduates, for larger-scale donations. But sometimes, they go on their own, personal donation runs. Tim said whenever the office needs inspiration, the team heads to the Drag or the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless to pass out socks. Agata said these trips keep the Mitscoots mission alive.

“This is such a joyous thing, to be able to help other people,” Agata said. “You can see that they feel accepted, loved and a part of something. To me, that’s the biggest reward.”

Tim said Mitscoots also empowers homeless populations by providing employment opportunities. Mitscoots helps men and women transition out of homelessness by hiring them to work in Mitscoots’ production. Once they are hired, Tim and Agata can then serve as references for future employment opportunities.

“Socks and beanies and stuff are really just like Band-Aids — they’re good, but they’re temporary,” Tim said. “There’s a huge other foundational issue that has to be addressed. What they need is not more handouts, it’s
more opportunity.”

Clifton Hayes, a formerly homeless contract employee, started working for Mitscoots last year, after he lost his job troubleshooting software operational systems. He said his work at Mitscoots has helped him earn other positions, and now, he juggles part-time work in carpentry, painting and sculpting.

“It’s something,” Clifton said. “You don’t get rich — it’s just a couple of hours [per week]. The schedule doesn’t interfere with my other work.”

Tim said one of his most memorable moments at the company was when one of his employees quit, because he was offered a full-time position elsewhere. A couple of months later, the team was invited to his house-warming party.

“It’s a really weird long-term company strategy to make yourself obsolete,” Tim said. “Ultimately, I would love to not have to give stuff away to anybody because it’s no longer a need — that would mean my company’s irrelevant.”

Tim said he doesn’t think the needs for these materials will subside. For now, Mitscoots will produce more needed materials and make sure the well-being of the homeless drives every decision the company makes.

“If I go under tomorrow, I absolutely will check success,” Tim said. “It’s three years of my life that I haven’t ever second-guessed. Few times in our lives do we get to have a genuine, substantial impact. It’s a way to add a little meaning to the generally meaningless stuff people are doing every day.”