New York City remains in the midst of the worst crisis of homelessness since the Great Depression. In a city of more than 8.3 million people, nearly one in every 106 New Yorkers is homeless — that's almost 80,000 men, women, and children. About 4,000 people sleep on the street, in the subway system, or in other public spaces every night.
We at Six+One believe in the power of giving back. So, we created a non-profit organization called 'For The Greater Hood' in February 2019. The non-profit organization aims to empower homeless individuals and families and restore a sense of dignity, value, and healthy community into their lives.
One of the ways we do this is by opening up pop-up shops in the NY tri-state area that provides them with a high-end boutique shopping experience. They're given a branded gift card for use as a payment method and can "purchase" brand new designer clothing, footwear, toiletries, and get haircuts or makeovers — all at no cost. This experience is deliberately in contrast to what they would usually feel when being given a used or secondhand item as a handout. They are also engaged one-on-one by caring volunteers that connect with the guests and speak encouraging words over them as they shop.
Several times last year, For The Greater Hood opened pop-up shops and gave handouts in Brooklyn, Harlem, and Patterson, NJ.
Every year we open up For The Greater Hood pop-up shops in Brooklyn, Harlem, Newark, and Patterson, NJ, and we continued to do so during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Each guest received a branded gift card used as a payment method to get three new outfits, haircuts, and new kicks for them and their family. The stores are meant to feel like high-end shops where guests can request sizes and try on items at their leisure. We acquire the stores by finding vacant store-fronts in low-income neighborhoods and renting them out for a week.
The goal is to provide value and enjoyment through a one-on-one shopping experience that maximizes dignity and respect. We typically have a 40-minute shopping experience for 40 - 50 guests at a time and have over 100 volunteers that serve with us throughout the day.
To ensure all guests could attend, we provided bus shuttles to and from all shelter locations we connected with before the event. We educated the local neighborhoods about the event and how to donate with wild postings, OOH billboards donated by Clear Channel OOH, and digital paid media. We acquired all store merchandise via corporate sponsors, including Global Brands, Frye Shoes, Nike, The NY Giants, Think Royln, Nine West, and more.
Some of the challenges we faced was opening pop-up stores during the pandemic, but despite that, we were able to provide more brand-new clothing than the previous two years combined. We also broadened our reach to go from families in need in the Tri-state area to serving over 500 refugee kids from Ukraine who fled to Poland.
This is an example of understanding the needs and emotions of a community and finding new ways to help shift the perception of going from a handout to a shopping experience by putting the power 0into the hands of the homeless community. Since we started these pop-up shops, we’ve created a 501C3 non-profit to help this initiative grow into other communities that need our services.
Since its launch in 2019, For The Greater Hood has opened ten pop-up shops in Brooklyn, Harlem, Newark and Patterson, NJ, Connecticut, Boston, and Long Island.
We've helped 15,000 men, women, and children.
Our $4,000 seed money turned into $400,000 in corporate clothing and school supplies donations.
We acquired store merchandise via over 20 corporate sponsors, including Global Brands, L'Oreal, Frye Shoes, Nike, The NY Giants, Think Royln, and Nine West - giving away a total of 35,000 items of new clothing, 3,000 backpacks, 4,000 pairs of shoes.
We had over 1,200 volunteers throughout the Tristate area who helped bring this initiative to life.
Here are a few quotes from directors from Camba:
Melissa Fisher, Director of Development for Camba shelters
"CAMBA, Inc. enthusiastically supports the work and mission of For the Greater Hood (FTGH). We worked with FTGH for several weeks in planning an awesome event to benefit the 2,000 individuals and families living in our ten shelters for the homeless."
Sheila Stainback, CAMBA Director of Communications
"CAMBA, Inc. would gladly work with FTGH again and encourage anyone lucky to encounter them to enjoy the experience. For The Greater Hood, organizers and volunteers were sensitive, organized, and very committed to making this a most positive and enjoyable experience for our shelter residents."
The success of our pop-up shops has allowed 'For The Greater Hood' to expand to additional locations on a more frequent basis. We will continue to host initiatives to lift individuals and communities in need.