Posted on: March 3, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Max Pazak and copywriter Kayli Vee Levitan of M&C were standing on their office balcony watching all of the people walking by. Then the idea of Street Store came to them, a nonprofit movement where volunteers set up a ‘store’ on a sidewalk to give away clothes to the homeless. It’s a rent-free, pop-up clothing store that could be sprung up anywhere in the world. Not only does it provide new clothes for the unfortunate, but the Street Store is a dignified way for these people to receive them.  

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Our offices are in Green Point — a very hip and trendy area — but where you find a lot of homeless people,” explains Levitan. “We saw how the ‘haves’ and the ‘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 ‘haves’ as pockets [of money], rather than people. This vicious cycle of dehumanization separates these two worlds.”  

Levitan and Pazak teamed up with the Haven Night Shelter to raise awareness and recruit volunteers for their pop-up shop. They wanted to break this cycle of degradation homeless people run into every day by creating a new way to approach this issue and help those in need. 

Our client, the Haven Night Shelter for the homeless, wanted to bring in donations and generate awareness,” says Levitan. “We didn’t want to do just a cold clothing drive, because while it may make people donate once, we wanted to make them want to donate in the future too.” 

Read: Parking Lot gets Turned Into a Safe Haven For The Homeless At Night

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Homelessness in Cape Town

The first-ever Street Shop took place in Cape Town where the homeless population is on the rise, along with drug addiction and unemployment rates. The winters are particularly brutal as homeless shelter’s resources are stretched to capacity. The City of Cape Town has been criticized in the past for taking steps to force homeless folk out of public areas where they are seeking shelter, like placing rocks under the Nelson Mandela Boulevard and a failed attempt to make the Company Garden benches uncomfortable for lying down on. 

A campaign called Give Responsibly has been lobbied by the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID has lobbied to discourage people from giving money directly to people begging on the street. 

In the best-case scenario, small change given at a stoplight makes life on the street more viable. In the worst case, it can feed a cycle of anti-social behavior that keeps people on the street and away from help,” says the CCID.  

Instead, they encourage people to message a special line that donates R10 to reputable NGOs that provide services for homeless people ranging from beds to family reunification services.

Still, Levitan wanted to create a way for people who want to give would be able to do so in a more direct way. Especially as she and Pazak watched homeless people walk past her office building every day. [1]

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Read: Finland Ends Homelessness and Provides Shelter For All in Need.

The First Street Store

And so, In January 2014, in Cape Town, South Africa, the first Street Store was launched.

Levitan describes the day as “all the donated clothing was hung up individually on so the homeless could browse through the garments and not have to dig through bins. Volunteers were on hand to help people pick out clothing that worked for the shoppers. It was a complete success. They gave away 1,000 bags off clothing that day.”

Since then, Street Store has opened up all across the world, and for good reason. All it needs is a handful of volunteers, cardboard, and clothing donated.  And when all of the clothes have been chosen, all the volunteers have to do is take down the cardboard posters and recycle them, and that’s it. The Street Store is closed. It’s a minimal effort operation with incredibly large benefits.

How to Create Your Own Street Store

  1. Access the Street Store start-up guide here and follow the instructions. 
  2. It’s recommended to collaborate with a local homeless shelter or organization to get volunteers to help run the event. 
  3. Download poster designs from TheStreetStore.org, print them, and assemble them. These posters should be hung up and used as placemats for the clothing donations. [2]
  4. Pick a place easy to access by homeless people that includes a large fence to hang the posters.

We just want the Street Store to continue growing around the world,” says Levitan. “We are continually adding new languages and assisting people globally to make their dream of hosting a Street Store come to life. Since 14 January 2014, more than 500 stores have popped up in 200 plus cities. We’d like this number to continue growing… forever.[3]

Keep Reading: Vatican palace turned into home for poor and homeless at pope’s behest

  1. Rebecca Davis. A homeless bazaar: Cape Town’s ‘Street Store’, where everything’s for free. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-01-15-a-homeless-bazaar-cape-towns-street-store-where-everythings-for-free/ January 15, 2014
  2. The Street Store. http://www.thestreetstore.org/
  3. Andrea D. Steffen. Street Stores That Gives Free Clothes To The Homeless Popping Up Worldwide/ Intelligent Living. https://www.intelligentliving.co/street-stores-homeless-worldwide/ December 31, 2018
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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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