'All we ask for is a thank you'— free store for homeless opens in Sudbury Arena

A new store has opened in the Sudbury Arena where the city's homeless can shop for free clothes and hygiene products. It's called Homeless of Champions.

Homeless store will be open six days a week until the end of June.

57-year-old Norm Chaulk checks out a pair of pants at the grand opening of the new Homeless of Champions store in Sudbury Arena. (Erik White/CBC )

One by one, shoppers make their way along the tables of neatly folded clothes and the clerks try to get them interested in a pair of shorts or a brightly coloured shirt.

This store is called Homeless of Champions and everything is free.

It opened Monday on the floor of the Sudbury Arena, next to the well-spaced-out tables where people can come in for a free lunch during the pandemic. 

Bob Johnston, who is a one-man charity called Tomorrow's Hope, worked with churches and other charities to get donated clothing and toiletries and is staffing his store with volunteers.

"You know what homeless? Pick what you want. It's not what we're giving you, it's what you want to pick. What's going to make you feel good, what you want for a choice, which they don't get too often," he says. 

"To raise their self-esteem, give them the life skill of shopping and move them on in a positive way in the community."

Bob Johnston is the man behind the Homeless of Champions store, which is staffed by volunteers and stocked with donations he collected. (Erik White/CBC )

Johnston says he found it was "quite brutal" how little was available for the homeless during the first two months of the pandemic and wanted to help out. 

"It's like a second family to me. I want to bring them all together and make sure we care for them and support them," he says.

"All we ask for is a thank you on the way out."

Bioped Foot Care is also fitting people for gently used shoes and will be donating a truckload of new shoes later this week. 

"Shoes are kind of our first line of defence," says co-owner Kyla Rouleau. 

"I just want to make sure they're getting into what they need."

A volunteer sorts through the clothes available free of charge to the homeless at a temporary store set up in Sudbury Arena. (Erik White/CBC )

Norm Chaulk came to the store's grand opening, but wasn't sure he needed anything, except maybe some new sneakers.

The 57-year-old says he lost his janitor job in B.C. when the pandemic hit, came to Ontario to be with his girlfriend, who he says in a Toronto hospital being treated for COVID-19.

For the past month he's been living in a Sudbury shelter, but is hoping to move into a place of his own next week. 

"I think this is a really good idea. It'll help a lot of people out who need the clothes and need the help and everything. I think this is a good idea what they're doing," says Chaulk. 

About the Author

Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to