Organizers are hoping Vancouverites will come through with donations to make sure an annual holiday tradition goes ahead this year.
The Street Store has been a part of Christmas in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside since 2014.
“The Street Store provides a safe space for people to choose what they want and need, instead of being given what people think they need,” organizer Christina Wong said in a press release. “It’s like shopping. When we enter a store, we choose what we like. Nobody runs up to us and says, ‘Buy this, here’s what you need.’”
The Street Store is set up like traditional shops, with departments set up in different tents and volunteers acting as sales assistants. But at the Street Store everything is free.
Wong launched the initiative in 2014 with a single tent after being inspired by a man she met while handing out care packages in the Downtown Eastside.
“He politely declined by care package and emphasized that what he actually needed was a haircut for an interview the following day,” she said. “This taught me the importance of dignity and choice.”
Last year, Wong co-founded Employ to Empower, a registered charity that supports people living in the Downtown Eastside by providing access to development and entrepreneurial resources, such as affordable microloans and business mentorship, with the goal of having a long-term impact of their personal and economic well-being.
Employ to Empower also now facilitates the Street Store.
The Street Store has opened every Christmas without fail since 2014. Since then more than 200 volunteers have helped distribute more than 40,0000 clothing donations to more than 5,000 residents.
This year, the Street Store is due to open on Dec. 15 with more than 1,000 shoppers expected. Event costs are usually covered by Wong and event sponsors, but this year, costs have increased significantly leaving the Street Store in need of help.
Wong is hoping to raise $15,000 to make sure the Street Store can open again this year, and return every year for the foreseeable future.
Donations can be made online, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheques can be made payable to “Employ to Empower Foundation” and mailed to 405 – 268 Keefer St.
If you cannot donate financially, there are other ways to support the Street Store:
- Sign up to be a volunteer
- Collect donations of outwear, backpacks, blankets, toiletries, socks and shoes
- Like, share and repost the Street Store event on Facebook
This year's Vancouver Street Store is scheduled for Dec. 15.