The organisation’s official website, TheStreetStore.org, visually explains the structure of the store: a few dozen posters on fences and railings with gaps in which donated clothing is placed. Donated footwear is placed on outlined boards below the hanging posters. This makes up the world’s first rent and premises free pop-up store for the homeless. Thereafter, the homeless are able to choose clothing they want, the first dignified shopping experience for many of the homeless. It is “somewhere safe to give and easy to collect”, as stated in the organisation’s web video.
A week before the first store in Cape Town opened, funding was received through donations which were requested via social media platforms. Subsequently, the initiative spread across prominent national blogs, news platforms, radio and television shows.
The founders then realised that “homelessness [is not] a South African problem,” as their website states. The Street Store concept has been made freely available to anyone who wants to make a difference. U2 lead singer Bono’s “One” organisation, Huffington Post, the Casual Society and Adverblog, to name a few, have all joined in on the concept. Over 3500 homeless people were clothed. The initiative then spread to Brussels, Vancouver, Gomez Palacio and many other countries.
Vusi Mesatywa from Limitless Virtual in South Africa stumbled upon the idea and organised the 166th Street Store, held in the Pretoria Art Museum. On 14 March 2015 over 30 volunteers assisted in running the store from 08:30 to 14:00, Van Eeden explains. The operation was “based on donations from friends and family of the volunteers”. Along with this, Van Eeden says that UP assisted considerably through donations from residences, departments and societies on campus. This includes the Actuarial Society donation of R2000 towards the purchase of new clothing, the marketing department’s assistance in spreading the word and gathering donations from UP students, and Vividus men’s donation of clothes.
Anyone is able to host their own Street Store. First, you must fill out an application form and take the organisation’s pledge on TheStreetStore.org. You are then given access to the files necessary to create a Street Store. A host must then collaborate with an organisation for the homeless and find a suitable location for the store. Permission must then be granted by the relevant officials in order to use the public space. After this, the host must set up advertising posters at donation points where donated shoes and clothing can be placed the following day. The posters must be put up and volunteers must ensure that the day runs smoothly. Thereafter, the homeless are welcome to browse and “shop”. The final step is to submit photos of the experience to the organisation’s website. To date, over 120 people have signed up to host their own store.
A recipient of donated clothing from Cape Town’s pop-up store speaks of how the volunteers were “accepting of [her] with friendly faces” in the video. Another recipient says that the store is “sent from heaven”, thanking the organisation with appreciation. According to their video, The Street Store is a concept where by “a few simple posters can restore the dignity of the homeless,” and “bring people together like never before”.
Photo: Charlotte Bastiaanse