Dignity for homeless at GTP pop-up

Johan Andrews puts his hand-print on a mural.

Christmas came early for homeless people in Bellville last week when a pop-up street store gave them a dignified shopping experience.

The Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) held the street store along Voortrekker Road on Friday December 1, together with the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID), Mould Empower Serve (MES), the Haven Night Shelter and Elim Night Shelter.

The aim was to change the way people relate to the homeless in the area.

Homeless people were pre-registered as “shoppers” and each shopper received a street-store loyalty card that let them shop for a limited number of items.

GTP collected about 690kg (65 black bags) of clothes and more than 100 shoes from residents and organisations that responded to the call for donations.

GTP CEO Warren Hewitt said it was important to look after the community’s poorest and most vulnerable.

He said the GTP was concerned about the high number of homeless people in Bellville.

He said the GTP was still receiving donations even after the cut-off date. “We wanted to give homeless people an opportunity to ‘shop’ in a dignified manner and give them a chance to shop on their own,” he said.

Marcus Vries, 19, has been living on the streets since he was 10.

He said he slept wherever he could find a place to rest for the night – mainly around Bellville’s public transport interchange – and did odd jobs to survive.

At the street store he bought himself a pair of shoes, T-shirts, trousers and a tie, which he planned to wear to church on Sunday. “It was so nice to be able to choose something I really wanted; it was really a special experience for me” he said

The street store also helped put the homeless in touch with social workers and organisations that can help them.