Walls of kindness: The viral trend keeping Iran's homeless warm

"Walls of kindness," where clothes are donated to those in need, have become popular across Iran.

Story highlights

  • "Walls of kindness" have been set up in Iran to allow people to donate clothes to the homeless
  • Sharing the outdoor charity drive on social media, the practice has spread across Iran
  • A similar initiative with fridges offers free food to the homeless

(CNN)Looking for something to restore your faith in humanity? This might just do the trick.

As Iran endures a cold winter, locals have devised an innovative scheme to help the homeless keep warm.
    Spontaneous "walls of kindness," on which people can donate unwanted clothing, have popped up around the country.
    The message is simple: "If you don't need it, leave it. If you need it, take it" -- next to several empty hooks and hangers.
    According to government officials, there are 15,000 homeless people in Iran. Of these, one third are women. However, unofficial estimates put this figure much higher. Last year, Tehran municipality's Welfare Organization estimated that there are more than that number on the capital's streets alone.
    The Iranian economy has been recovering since 2014, after suffering two years of recession. However, the unemployment rate remains high at 11.4%, according to the World Bank.
    Much of the scheme's success stems from its visibility on social media platforms, where citizens have shared images using #WallOfKindness.
    Coats, trousers, hats and jumpers soon appeared, as passers-by sporadically left items behind. Those without warm clothes -- including the homeless population -- are encouraged to collect and keep donated items left behind.
    The first "wall of kindness" is believed to have been erected in the city of Mashhad, northeast Iran, according to the BBC. Since then, replicas have sprung up in other cities, including Shiraz, Sirjan and Ilam.
    "Have you heard of the wall of kindness?" asked a popular Iranian comedian on Facebook.
    "If your city doesn't have one, getting one going is very easy. All you need is a suitable wall, some paint and clothes hooks. And then just spread the word."

    Fridges of kindness

    A similar initiative, but with open fridges, is also popular in Iran. Ali Heidari -- a manager at an advertising company -- told the Guardian newspaper that he started the scheme. The first fridge was installed in the Shoush neighborhood of Tehran.
    "At the beginning some were pessimistic," Heidari told the Tehran Bureau -- an independent publication hosted by the Guardian.
    "Shoush is known for theft, so some were saying that in less than 24 hours every part of the fridge would be stolen. Some were also saying, one person might come and take all the food and leave nothing for others. None of this has happened up until now."
    The "Payan-e Kartonkhabi" fridges have since spread from Tehran to the northern Iranian cities of Karaj, Rasht and Lahijan.