Shopping is almost as much a part of the holiday season as mistletoe or hot cocoa but one local pop-up shop is doing things a little differently — no money changes hands at Street Store Vancouver.
Instead, items are donated and the city's homeless residents can shop for free at the one-day event. Last year's Downtown Eastside pop-up featured more than five thousand items and served more than five hundred shoppers.
"The whole point of this shop is so that people can have a dignified experience," said Christina Wong, who started the Vancouver version of the global phenomenon in 2014.
She was a university student at the time, looking for something to do for her birthday and decided to gather some friends and organize the pop-up market.
"I had envisioned it as having one plastic table and a bunch of donations from the local community," she said. "It has snowballed into something much bigger than I expected."
What started off as a couple of tents the first year has morphed into a bustling marketplace with different stands for clothing, accessories, socks, children's items and toiletries. This year, there is also a barber shop and hot-chocolate station.
Freedom to shop
Freedom of choice is a key part of the shop, Wong told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.
She wants it to be like any other shopping experience — you go in, choose the items you need and want, and leave with your purchases.
"We want to replicate that," she said. "To have that choice to choose 'this is what I need at this very moment' is so important."
Wong works with youth and many of her 50 volunteers this year are from local schools.
Having people reach out and ask how they can help is one of the motivations that continues to drive her, Wong said.
"It really brought our community together and showed me the power of collaboration and compassion," she said.
Compassion is key, Wong said, and she hopes the shop will help change perceptions about homelessness as well.
Street Store Vancouver is held at 62 East Hastings and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17. Items can be donated before and on the day of the market.
To hear more, click on the audio link below:
With files from The Early Edition.