Kayli Vee Levitan co-founded Cape Town’s first ‘rent-free, premises-free, free pop-up clothing store for the poor’ in 2014. The Street Store reminds both sides of society that the other is human.
“The Street Store reminds you of your humanity. There is a vicious cycle of dehumanisation on the street. Homeless people beg and eventually the ‘haves’ start ignoring them because you can’t help everyone. When they’re ignored, they stop seeing the ‘haves’ as people, but as pockets – which makes them more willing to beg and, in turn, makes the ‘haves’ more willing to ignore,” she says in a Cape Town Etc interview.
Levitan uses social media to alert donators in advance to bring their unwanted clothing to a specific place where collections are made. The Street Store is then set up at different locations for homeless customers to pop in and have the privilege of choosing the garments they want.
The young innovator studied linguistics, media writing, and film at the University of Cape Town. Apart from The Street Store, Kayli has worked with the World Wildlife Fund, Dementia SA, the United Nations, the Global Fund, the Women’s Hope, Education and Training Trust and other organisations.
The Durban-born millennial is also the founder of the 4:50 Club, an online platform that aims to inspire positive thinking. The objective here is to work towards addressing negative issues that may lead to bigger health and mental challenges among youth.
Levitan believes there is always an opportunity for learning and that every moment is a chance to create change and make an impact. She says the feedback from the beneficiaries of The Street Store, the stories about their homeless experiences, inspire her to keep going. “It reminds them that they are not forgotten,” she says.
The Street Store has always been a dream for her. She admits that her biggest challenge was being bold enough to pursue the project. Four years on and she has never looked back. “You may assume that there are places that don’t need them, or couldn’t possibly pull one off – but they do and can. We’ve had stores in Islamabad and Ghana, in California and Brussels,” she says.