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South Africa’s homeless shelters, soup kitchens and night shelters are many answers to “How to help the homeless”, which are all vital to the homeless community’s comfort and health. However, many additional initiatives exist to uplift this vulnerable community, some more unusual and inventive than others. Thinking what other methods are there to answer the question of how to help the homeless? How are initiatives like The Street Store, Surf Not Streets and Girls With Wiings different from other philanthropic initiatives and what are they doing to address homelessness?

The Street Store was established in Cape Town in January 2014 to specifically help the homeless, and has since spread from Canada to Brazil with over 580 stores functioning worldwide today. Art director and designer, Max Pazak, and copywriter, Kayli Vee Levitan, founded the initiative when they recognised the need for an easy place to give and receive clothing donations. “The Street Store is a pop-up store for the homeless that can be created in any community around the world where the homeless shop for free,” explains the organisation. “The pop-up [store] is made of posters on the sidewalk and runs entirely on donations. It’s pretty simple: you bring clothes and shoes you don’t wear and the homeless help themselves.”

The Street Store purposefully doesn’t take donations ahead of an event, that is not the best way to help the homeless. “We aren’t a clothing drive, so we don’t take donations ahead of the pop-up. We want people to meet and to interact – so the world’s ‘haves’ can meet the ‘have-nots’ and they can remember that both sides are human.” One of the most important aspects of The Street Store is that it dignifies the receiving process for the homeless. The organisation explains that “instead of feeling like they’re having old clothing thrown at them, the homeless get to have a full shopping experience [where] they can browse through the clothes. We’ll help them find an outfit they like, it’s wrapped up, and off they go.”

Like The Street Store, the Durban-based initiative Surf Not Streets strives to cultivate a sense of pride and humanity amongst the local homeless community, which now brings better ways to help the homeless. Street child activist and surfer Tom Hewitt founded Surf Not Streets as a direct response to the growing phenomenon of child homelessness in Durban. “Our dedicated team have been working on the rights of streets children in South Africa for over 25 years,” says Hewitt. The organisation attributes its success to an approach that combines surfing instruction with mentorship and psychosocial care, helping the homeless where they need it. The ultimate goal of Surf Not Streets, according to its mission statement, “is to empower the children it works with to leave the streets behind for good and become independent and self-sustainable.”

Some South African initiatives are highly specific in the way they answer the question of how to help the homeless communities. One such organisation, Girls With Wings, collects sanitary pads for homeless women and children. South African Koinonia Baloyi founded the initiative in 2016 after she came across an article that revealed the monthly challenges faced by homeless women with no access to sanitary products. “I was moved to do more than just feel sorry for them. I decided to make a difference,” says Baloyi. “The heart of Girls with Wiings,” says Baloyi, “is to sow hope and restore the dignity of homeless women by providing for their basic hygiene needs.”


These aren’t just words, neatly packed to sound helpful “in theory”; these are the very real concepts on which the global movement of positive change is built.
It’s with these ideas that The Philanthropic Collection home to The CEO SleepOut is turning old world philanthropy on its head;
getting business leaders to sleep on the streets to raise funds and gain empathy for the homeless in The CEO SleepOut Event;
and sparking conversations that truly lead to worldwide action.

By Jessica Alberts