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Cape Town’s Pop-up Store for the Homeless Goes Global
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Looking out from their advertising agency balcony onto the main street, a pair of Cape Town advertising creatives has changed the way people give and receive for humanitarian reasons worldwide.

The copywriter and art director team of Kayli Levitan and Maxmillian Pazak say they were simply looking for a way to bring together the “haves and have-nots” who fill the streets around their workplace area every day. With support from their ad agency M&C Saatchi Abel, and partnering with the nearby headquarters of the Haven Night Shelter, Cape Town’s largest network of homeless shelters, the team have fine-tuned a concept aimed at changing the process of giving and receiving. The idea is simple, and yet uniquely ingenious, and it has gone viral, and has captured the imagination of people worldwide.

“We work in a very trendy part of Cape Town called Green Point. Restaurants, designer stores, hotels and more line the streets,” says Levitan. “But on the other hand there is a huge problem in the area. From our balcony we see the haves and the have-nots walk the streets every day. You are often told not to give to the homeless, as you are not sure what they are going to do with the donation. People are also sometimes ignorant as to where to take their donations, as they haven`t been exposed to this kind of life before. We saw a middle ground. A place where it would be easy to donate, and more importantly, a place to give with dignity to those who do not have.”

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Exactly how does a Street Store work?

“The Street Store is made up of a series of five or more posters,” says Pazak. “They can quite literally pop-up in any community that the store is needed. People bring in their donations, which we help them to ‘hang up’ on our posters with a hanger design. And then “drop” shoes and accessories into our boxes. Shop assistants then help the homeless have a full shopping experience choosing from the clothing on display, for free.”

Thanks to a well-timed web presence and social media drive, an overwhelming number of donors came to donate for the pilot street store in Green Point. So successful were the first four activations in Cape Town that the agency was inundated with requests to duplicate The Street Store across the world.

To date the concept has grown to see street stores being duplicated in the city streets of Brussels, Vancouver, San Diego, Sao Polo and a number of other cities worldwide since then.

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Were there challenges in activating the pop-up store?

The biggest challenge was the fear that people would not take up the call to donate. “We had sleepless nights leading up to the first pop up store, but were overwhelmed by people’s generosity,” says Pazak. Another challenge was that the vast majority of the homeless are men (unsurprisingly it is women who spring clean their cupboards more often) but thankfully no one went away empty handed.

So far more than 263 cities from around the world have signed up to host a Street Store — posters have been translated through social media into nine languages. As the Street Store concept rolls out globally, picking up momentum, kudos have been coming in from all corners, including at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival. M&C Saatchi Abel was awarded a prestigious Gold Lion in the design category, a bronze in the media category, with six other shortlists, including the Grand Prix for Good Award in June.

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The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille said: ‘This is a great example of how progress can be made possible together. It is wonderful to see private companies step up to the plate, using their ideas and resources to play a role in solving social problems in an innovative way. It is our vision in the City of Cape Town that all companies will follow in this example, because that is when our potential as a city will truly be limitless”.

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On top of an endless stream of words of encouragement that are received daily, Levitan says that they receive an additional 30/40 questions and requests a day to download the branding material. It is hardly surprising that another award-winning design initiative originates out of the Mother City, the designated 2014 World Design Capital. The Street Store is a demonstration of how simple ideas, that touch people, will find their own way around the world and create remarkable change.

 See The Street Store in action:

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