The Street Store is the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “pop-up clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street and curated by volunteers.
Giving dignity back to the homeless
Founded in 2014 it was a once-off event organised by Kayli Levitan and Max Pazak from Cape Town, South Africa in collaboration with advertising agency, M&C Saatchi Abel.
Levitan describes the starting point of this initiative and the realization that conventional methods of charity are not inspirational.
“We took to the street with nothing but a couple of posters. It makes it easy to make donations as it is hosted in a public area, but it also dignifies the receiving process. Instead of feeling like they’re having old clothing thrown at them, the homeless get to have a full shopping experience. They can browse through the clothes, we’ll help them find an outfit they like, it’s wrapped up and off they go. After working through the idea with The Haven, we realized that homelessness and poverty isn’t a uniquely Capetonian problem. It isn’t even just a South African problem, it’s world-wide. So, we asked The Haven if they would mind if we made the concept of the store completely open-source. And they agreed! So now anyone, from any city around the world can host a Street Store” she said
The process is pretty simple donors bring clothes and shoes they don’t wear, and the homeless help themselves. It gives them a shopping experience that often many take for granted. People making donations literally hang their clothes through a gap in the poster and drop their shoes onto specially designed flat boxes. The homeless can then come and browse through the clothes and help themselves.
Open-source poster designs can be downloaded from TheStreetStore.org. Once printed, the designs are assembled and used as hangers and place mats to hold clothing donations. The donated items are hung on an outdoor fence for the homeless to browse through.
Once the event has ended and all items of clothing have been taken, the cardboard posters are collected and recycled, leaving no trace of The Street Store.
“What we realised was that instead of just showing people the posters, to really create and inspire change we needed them to engage with them. That is how the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “pop-upclothing store” for the poor was created” she said.
Collaboration with a local homeless shelter or organisation is encouraged since volunteers are needed to administrate the event. As for the location, an appropriate public space with a large fence is preferable as a way to connect the homeless to the city.
A problem world wide
Both Max and Kayli realised that homelessness and poverty isn’t a uniquely Cape Town problem, and therefore The Street Store shouldn’t be a uniquely Cape Town solution. Together they decided to make the concept open to absolutely any organisation in need. To date, more than 500 Street Stores have been held in cities all over the world.
The Street Store encourages privileged people to be charitable anonymously and does so with little to no expense. It provides clothing to those who need it most and saves them the humiliation of having to beg for a necessity.
Fast-forward a year, and The Street Store has not just spread to other South African cities. It has become a truly global phenomenon. Dakar, Indianapolis, Tel Aviv, Antwerp, Aberdeen, London, Islamabad, Oslo, Accra and Sao Paulo are are just some of the cities that have hosted these pop-up shops.
It continues to bring relief to the lives of homeless people internationally.