Free Pop-up Clothing Store for Homeless Restores Dignity, Connects the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’
Conventional charity has been given a fresh makeover with the creation of Street Stores, “the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free pop-up clothing store for the homeless” and it’s inspiring many compassionate people across the globe. Thus far, there have been 815 global hosts (including Cape Town, Brussels, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver, Sao Paulo, and Kentucky) who have helped make a difference in the lives of over 500,000 homeless people, according to The Street Store.
“Our offices are in Green Point – a very hip and trendy area, but where you find a lot of homeless people,” said co-founder of The Street Store, Kayli Lee Levitan. “We saw how the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ cross one another’s paths on the streets, but never really meet. The ‘haves’ fear the homeless and get frustrated with their begging – so they begin to ignore them. This dehumanizes the homeless, which makes them feel even more comfortable with begging as they begin to see the ‘have’ as pockets (of money), rather than people. This vicious cycle of dehumanization separates these two worlds.”
The way it works is a community teams up with a local homeless shelter/organization to host a Street Store. They download and assemble poster designs, hang clothes inside of them like clothing “racks,” which are typically then hung from fences. It’s a dignified approach for the homeless to help themselves and easily look through the clothing and shoes on display, rather than search through bins.
“You are sent from heaven,” thank you very much,” said one teary homeless man who attended a Street store and was overwhelmed with gratitude. “There’s no way I can pay you back. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.”