Vancouver Street Store is a shopping haven for the homeless

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Homeless people don’t often get the opportunity to shop, especially for things they actually want. They often rely on donations and rarely get beyond fulfilling basic needs to survive.

The Street Store aims to change that.

The Street Store is the world’s first free pop-up clothing store for homeless people. The concept originated in Cape Town, South Africa and is fairly simple: allow homeless people a sense of dignity by giving them a choice in what they wear.

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The idea took off and has since spread to 119 cities around the world, including Vancouver. SFU student Christina Wong is heading up the Vancouver incarnation for the second year in a row. The Street Store pop-up model spoke to her for a number of reasons.

“It’s really cool because anyone, anywhere can apply for it and anyone can host it. It really offers people an opportunity to help without going through any crazy procedures,” she told Vancity Buzz.

After the success of last year’s pop-up shop, Wong has decided to make this an annual tradition at Christmas time. One little boy in particular inspired her to keep the venture going when he lined up at the Street Store with his parents. Wong ended up giving him a garbage bag full of toys.

“It was really heartwarming to speak with him. He was very, very grateful for everything that we gave him,” she said.

“I thought I would meet older people on the Downtown Eastside, but I guess meeting a child was really what made me want to keep this going. It just really kind of put things in perspective for me.”

Last year, donors came out in droves – they even had leftovers after being open for six hours and helping many people on the Downtown Eastside. The leftovers were donated to Covenant House.

This year, Wong is partnering up with several organizations to make this year’s event even bigger and better:

I am so thankful for having the Group of UBC students on board as they have spent the last three months working me on this project. They devoted countless hours of their time to help promote the event , gather volunteers, collect monetary donations, and seek out multiple partnerships with non-profit organizations such as the DTES Women’s Centre. Their contributions to this project have played a significant role in making the Street Store Vancouver 2.0 bigger and better for 2015,” said Wong.

If you want to help, Wong is looking for the following donations:

  • Unused toiletries or hygiene products
  • Blankets
  • Socks
  • Footwear
  • Monetary donations

The event is taking place on Sunday, December 27 at 62 East Hastings Street.

If you want to donate or volunteer, contact wong.christina92@gmail.com to find out how.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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