Free Street Stores for the Homeless Are Appearing Everywhere

This is the world’s first “rent free, premises free, free pop-up clothing store for the homeless”.

(Courtesy of Street Store)

Street Store is a rent-free, building free, pop-up clothing store that gives clothing away to the poor, absolutely free. The store started as a one-time event in 2014, to help clothe the poor of Cape Town, South Africa. It has blossomed into a worldwide innovative way to help the homeless in a dignified way.

Street Store is the brainchild of copywriter Kayli Vee Levitan of M&C Saatchi Abel in Cape Town and was pitched to help her client the Napier Haven Night Shelter. The ideas being generated included a typical clothing drive but Levitan thought she could do more than that. "We didn’t want to do just a cold clothing drive, because while it may make people donate once, we wanted to make them want to donate in the future to," she said.

The idea for Street Store came to her when she and her art director Max Pazak were standing on their office balcony in Green Point; a very upscale trendy area but where there is also a large homeless problem. Two opposite worlds existed in the same location but never met. She wanted to bring the two communities together in a way that was dignified and humane. The result was Street Store.

Levitan and Pazak advertised the event on social media. The first Street Store was held on the same street as the homeless shelter. People who wanted to donate clothing had to do so in person so that they interacted with the people who were receiving the clothing.

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.

Realizing that homelessness was not exclusive to Cape Town or to South Africa, Levitan and Pazak opened the pop-up street store concept to any organization that wanted to run one.

Getting started is easy, just access the Street Store start-up guide. Then download the set of five International Street Store posters and have them printed; there is a place to add your organization's information. Once you finalize your plans, just send them to Street Store so they can put it on their site and open a Facebook event.

The posters can be assembled and used as hangers and placemats for donated clothing and shoes. On the day of the event, place the posters up on an outdoor fence so the people donating the clothing can hang it up. When the event is over and all the clothes have been taken, the cardboard posters are collected and recycled, leaving no trace of the pop-up clothing store.

Open-source poster designs can be downloaded from

Four years later, Street Stores have popped up in more than 500 locations in 200+ cities across the globe. In just the past two months, they popped up in Bogota, Colombia; Lagos, Nigeria; Manilla, Philippines; Chihuahua, Mexico; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Cartersville and Acewood, Georgia, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, South Africa.

The amazing project continues to bring relief to the lives of homeless people internationally.

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