This is the Street Store: The world's first rent-free pop-up clothing store for the homeless.
The Street Store aims to change income disparities by facilitating a temporary meeting point between these groups to benefit the impoverished and raising awareness to increase donations.
Levitan explains the circle of degradation that homeless people face on a daily basis – a cycle that The Street Store aims to shatter.
“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 dehumanises 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 dehumanisation separates these two worlds.”
The Street Store launched successfully in January 2014. Its progress has been due, in part, to the minimal nature of its infrastructure. It is a rent-free, pop-up charity that can be held in any city across the globe with the help of volunteers and a few pieces of cardboard.
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.
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.
Successful Street Stores have been held in Cape Town, Brussels, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver, Sao Paulo and Kentucky among many other cities. It continues to bring relief to the lives of homeless people internationally.
“We just want The Street Store to continue growing around the world. 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+ cities – we’d like this number to continue growing… forever,” says Levitan. 1