Homelessness is a global issue. There are many people who lose their financial strength, become broke, and end up on the streets. It could be their fate or some bad choice in the past or even the economic system of the country – whatever be the case, the homeless are in no way less human than us. Sometimes, homelessness can even displace whole families and bring them onto the streets. We don’t often see the homeless around because they generally stay at one spot, but for Cape Town, the situation is different. In this port city of South Africa, the homeless live along with the people who have the financial power to maintain their life standards. While it might seem that the situation is much more friendly and communal in Cape Town than any other place, it’s not so in reality. Levitan observed something different.
The Process Of Dehumanisation
From her office, she observed the ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ and how they interacted with each other. She made quite a profound observation. While the people who were financially capable really wanted to help those who weren’t, they did not know how they would go about it. It makes sense – they don’t know who is actually homeless and who is just pretending to be so.
Plus, financial aid can be misused by a homeless person by investing it in drugs or other indulgences and not on their immediate needs. As a result, when the homeless start begging for money, they annoy people and thereby, get ignored. Similarly, the homeless see the people as sources for getting money and nothing more and so the interaction begins and ends with demanding alms.
For Levitan, this was a circle of dehumanising that persisted and aggravated with time. Each one of the parties forgot that both were human beings having a story in their lives – rather they were transformed into objects of gaining something.
A Brilliant Idea
Levitan had a great observation but philosophy is not about observing and theorizing – it’s about acting and making a difference. She knew that too, and so she took a step towards changing this whole process of dehumanization. In partnership with The Haven Night Shelter for the homeless, she set up The Street Store. This was a brand-new idea and with a great purpose attached to it. Unlike any other stores, the Street Store does not require huge premises or a building – it is a pop-up store that is completely rent-free and can be made anywhere you want. Just design a poster downloaded from the TheStreetStore.org and hang it at a chosen street corner. The posters come with hangers and placemats where you could put your donated clothes for display. But the actual beauty of the store lies in the way it functions.
Humanising The Whole Affair
The homeless are allowed to shop free of cost from the store. They don’t have to rummage through the bins for clothes or settle for a smaller shoe size just because their clothes have come as a donation. Rather they can shop (and window shop if they don’t want anything) and pick up whatever they like and own it. On top of that, the store has volunteers who manage the whole affair and will help the homeless when it comes choosing the best-fitting clothes. You can understand why it is set up that way – the homeless are now treated like a human being who is shopping just like people with money shop, and have a choice about their own fashion. While on the other hand, there is also an active interaction of the have-nots and the haves in a ‘human’ way – a perfect win-win situation.
Some Rules And Regulations
The Street Store has their own set of rules. Firstly, it does not accept any financial donations. It is based on clothing and it would like to keep it that way. You can always help out by going to a nearby Street Store and hanging your garments there. The first street store was put up in January 2014. It was a success and the media took up the story of this revolutionary way of helping the homeless. And that was the starting – now The Street Store has spread all over the world, popping up in more than 200 cities. Now, is it the same South African company branching out? Not quite. You can set up a Street Store in your own locality too. You just have to download their guide and take a pledge. Download The Street Store poster and host your own Street Store. The catch is you can’t make your own The Street Store Facebook page while working for it. It makes sense: multiple pages would just dilute the original store and make it difficult to trace their activities.
Connecting people and helping the needy – The Street Store has become another success story. The best part is that you can be a part of it too. It’s amazing how fast The Street Store has gained popularity and spread on a global scale. It just shows that people are willing to help, if they know how. We just need to build a proper channel for it.
Image Credits: Intelligent living