In a bid to become more financially independent, the Carpenter Shop has opened a charity shop at their premises in Roeland Street.
The organisation, which serves homeless and vulnerable people in the CBD, also runs a waterless carwash.
Carpenter Shop fund-raiser, Jane Mills, said the idea to open a charity shop came from a need for all NGOs and NPOs to generate their own income.
“We are fortunate to receive donations from the public, but we also do not want to be very donor dependent.”
The charity shop runs on donations from the public, which are sorted by volunteers. “Some of the donated items we give to the clients at the Carpenter Shop and then, with the permission from the donor, we price the item and put it in the charity shop to sell.”
She said the charity shop, which runs weekdays from 9am to 12.30pm, stocks bric-a-brac, clothing, furniture and toys at very reasonable prices.
All the proceeds from the charity shop, like that of the carwash, covers some of the costs of the programme at the Carpenter Shop, said Ms Mills.
The programmes, run for the homeless people in the city, include feeding schemes, social services, weekly clinics, and ablution facilities.
Ms Mills said another aspect of the charity shop is to use it as a work base for the homeless people who would like to get their lives together.
The Carpenter Shop has a second phase shelter on the site, which houses about 40 previously homeless men who have recently been employed.
Ms Mills said the men are allowed to stay at the shelter for three to six months to get back on their feet. “They pay a stipend to live there, and they do chores. But the condition for living there is that you must be employed.”
She said most of the men work as waiters at night and at call centres, and during the day, are free to earn some extra money. “The assistant in the shop earns commission on all the items they sell, and they are expected to man the stall, manage safety and keep the store clean. It’s a simple way to be self sustainable.”
Working in the charity shop is Bevan Anthony, who came from Durban in the beginning of the year to work as a welder at the harbour. “The contract then ended and wasn’t renewed. We were also kicked out of our accommodation at the Waterfront Suites because the boss didn’t pay our rent.” He said some of the men who worked with him went back home, and the others who did not have transport, like himself, ended up on the streets. “I slept in Roeland Street. I explained to a security guard what had happened and he gave me a safe space to sleep.”
Mr Anthony said while on the streets, he was arrested for theft, although it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I was incarcerated for three months. While in jail, I made contact with a friend of mine, who helped me get bail and then told me about the Carpenter Shop.”
He said since he has been at the Carpenter Shop, the place has been a “Godsend”.
“I have a bed to sleep in, I can shower and keep myself clean, and a roof over my head. It’s a place I can gather my thoughts.”
Mr Anthony said he helped clear the space for the store, and was asked to help out after the other assistant left.
“When they asked me I was very keen. It gives me a sense of purpose and helps me pay my rent at the shelter.”
He said some days at the store is better than others. “Some days we sell a lot and some days a little. We don’t really advertise. It’s mostly the people who visit the Carpenter Shop everyday that know about it, and spread the word.”
He said most of his clients are the people who come to the ablution facilities, the people that come to the carwash, and even the homeless people in the area. Caroline Abrahams, who has lived on the streets for the past 11 years, is a regular client at the charity shop.
She said she loves the shop, especially for the clothing. “The shop is so neat and tidy, and you find the most amazing things. I am happy that I can buy clothes and dresses at affordable prices. I sing in the choir at the church so now I can look presentable.”
Ms Abrahams’ latest purchase is a toy piano and mic set. “I am so happy about my mic. Although it’s a toy, I can practice my singing – I love to sing.”
Mr Anthony said the shop needs to sell more men’s clothing and shoes, because most men come to the Carpenter Shop wearing no shoes, and do not have presentable clothing to wear after they had showered at the ablution facilities. The Carpenter Shop has been in the city centre for 36 years, offering opportunities and aiming to restore the dignity of the homeless and vulnerable. Ms Mills said about 1 000 people walk through the Carpenter Shop every month. “We offer support to the homeless, and our aim is to get them back into society or get them back home, but it’s not a simple task.”
The ablution facilities are open three days a week because of water restrictions. Homeless people are able to come to the ablutions and take a quick shower and are offered toiletry packs, as well as tokens to receive a meal at the Service Dining Rooms, and are offered help by the onsite social workers.
“The social worker will them aim to get them into a shelter, and then try to build a relationship with the person.”
They also have a feeding scheme which takes place three days a week through voluntary effort, and also offer their premises to other feeding schemes such as Ladles of Love, Souper Troopers and Helping Hands.
Ms Mills said there is also a weekly clinic where people can get standard tests, and a monthly specialised clinic – one for men and one for women, as well as workshops about health and wellness.
Ms Mills said the next aim is to open a laundromat, but the project is still in its early stages.
For more information about the Carpenter Shop or the charity shop, or to donate items, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 461 5508.
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