Last updated: February 19. 2013 7:55PM - 591 Views

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Jackets, gloves, scarves, belts and hats. Each item of clothing left behind at a Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoint now gets auctioned off and sold.

But a bill that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has introduced in the Senate would instead direct those items to be distributed to homeless or down on their luck veterans.

A companion bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat from western New York, was passed this week by voice vote in the House.

The measure directs the TSA to make every reasonable effort to donate unclaimed clothing to organizations that serve veterans.

Toomey's measure in the Senate has not been scheduled for a vote, yet, but the Republican senator from the Lehigh Valley said as cold temperatures settle in over much of the nation, now is the time to take action.

Thousands of pieces of clothing are left unclaimed at airport security checkpoints – clothing that could be put to good use. The Clothe a Homeless Hero Act helps our heroes by giving unclaimed clothing to those most in need, said Toomey.

Hochul echoed Toomey's sentiments.

As cold weather approaches across much of the country, we must provide for our nation's homeless veterans while we work to end homelessness for good, she said.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, about 75,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and about 20,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been homeless within the last five years.

The bill … provides a creative and sustainable use of readily available resources to assist those who served our country tirelessly in the military but struggle with one of the most basic fundamentals of civilian life. We applaud this initiative, said Karla Porter, vice president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Veterans Multicare Alliance.

Toomey's spokeswoman Rebecca Neal said that the TSA has indicated about 1,000 items of clothing are left at airport checkpoints daily. Barry Centini, the director of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, said the idea sounds like a noble one but indicated not much is typically left behind at the local terminal, mostly because of its size and traveler numbers.

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