Street Stores That Gives Clothes To The Homeless For Free Popping Up Worldwide

A unique charity in South Africa has inspired thousands of copycats around the globe.

Homeless people are often in need of clothing more than anything else, but it can be both disheartening and dehumanizing when they're forced to sort through piles of t-shirts during a charity drive. Not only does the disorder make them keenly aware of their poverty, but it also doesn't give them many options for choosing an appropriate outfit. They have to take what they can get rather than having any real agency in their choices.

The Street Store decided to change this. Created by two corporate professionals in South Africa, it's a "pop-up" donation site that hangs clothes on stylish cardboard stands in the street. The homeless can browse them at their leisure and even try on different outfits before deciding what they'd like to claim. Volunteers are on site to offer fashion advice and re-hang unwanted outfits. Except for the fact that it's completely free, the set-up is just like a traditional retail outlet.

The creators, Kayli Vee Levitan and Max Pazak, said that they were inspired by the clear division of the rich and the poor in Cape Town. The rich would avoid the poor in the streets because they only saw them as beggars, but their attitudes only made the poor beg harder

"The 'haves' fear the homeless and get frustrated with their begging, so they begin to ignore them," Levitan explained. "This dehumanizes the homeless which makes them feel even more comfortable with begging as they begin to see the 'haves' as pockets rather than people."

Levitan and Pazak wanted to break the cycle, so they decided to start a clothing drive that recreated the trendy, upscale appearance of a modern fashion boutique. The poor would be able to regain a bit of their lost dignity, and the rich wouldn't wrinkle their noses at the sight of charity.

The first Street Store was launched in 2014, and it was an immediate hit. More than 1,000 bags of clothing were given away before the sun had set on the first day. It was a rent-free, building-free and obligation-free environment, and it became one of the biggest amateur charity events that the city had ever seen.

Inspired by its success, homeless charities in South Africa started organizing their own pop-up clothing drives. The cardboard stands were easy to set up and take down, and they didn't require finding, renting, cleaning or preparing any building space.

Their stylish appearance was also a great way to encourage donations. People were more likely to contribute when they saw their clothes featured in a fashion show rather than thrown in a dusty donation bin!

Other countries hopped on the bandwagon as well. Street stores are now a charitable act all across the globe, and the original Street Store serves as a coordinator and director for their efforts. They've even released a how-to guide on their website that includes everything from volunteer forms to printables for cardboard signs. Creating your own street store is as simple as logging on the website and downloading an informational packet

According to its founders, the Street Store has grown beyond their wildest dreams, but they don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Instead, they'll just make their dreams a little bigger.

"Since 14 January 2014, more than 500 stores have popped up in 200+ cities," Levitan writes on their website. "We'd like this number to continue growing... forever."

What do you think? Could you see yourself starting your own street store? Would you support one if it popped up in your own neighborhood? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to pass this along to your friends and family!