Have you ever noticed the stark divide between those who have and those who have not? This is especially visible in cities where the hustle and bustle of those with jobs and expendable income pop into high rise corporate buildings and pass right by the same city’s homeless population without so much as a second thought.

If so, you’re not the only one. The glaring dichotomy described above inspired Kayli Vee Levitan and Max Pazak, the duo responsible for the birth of an initiative called The Street Store, to go a little farther than handing over their spare change and distributing simple hygiene kits, both common practices of those who can’t ignore the presence of homeless people.

The duo found inspiration one day as they gazed down from their balcony, observing the scene below. Levitan explained:

Our offices are in Green Point – a very hip and trendy area, but where you find a lot of homeless people. 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 wants to put a wrench in the circle of degradation that homeless people face daily. And so, the Street Store was born.

In short, 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 you.”

The Street Store is more like a rent-free, structure-free, absolutely free movement than a charity or organization. No one benefits from a Street Store pop-up save for those receiving the clothing. But more than simply a pop-up clothing store for the homeless, the initiative promotes interaction between two populations that don’t typically interact at length. The Street Store builds community and fosters long-term participation in a way that a clothing drive or dropping donations off at a facility does not.

The first Street Store took place in early 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. Levitan recalls:

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, pop-up Street Stores have occurred in cities across the world, including in Cape Town, Brussels, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and Sao Paulo, and the movement is showing no signs of stopping. Visit the Street Store’s Facebook page to find pop-ups near you.
Stop by a Street Store near you or consider starting your own, even if you’re not the first to jump on the trend in your city.

The more Street Stores the better. Each one helps a different homeless community.”

With just a few sets of hands and a printer, a Street Store can be set up anywhere in the world. When it’s closing time, simply pack up any leftover clothing (save it for next time or donate it) and pack up the cardboard signs. When all is said and done, the local population will have some new threads and, save for their happy faces, there will be no trace The Street Store was ever there.

Visit The Street Store’s website and take the pledge to get started and following the simple instructions. Consider collaborating with a local homeless shelter or organization to help promote and secure volunteers for your event.

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.”


Image Credit | The Street Store Cape Town, South Africa via Facebook