On April 22 just outside Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin, TX, a homeless man arrived at The Street Store in search of a special pair of pants. The man wanted just the right attire to wear to his mother’s funeral.

Street Store
SpareFoot’s Dee Dee Dial with one of the store’s happy shoppers.

SpareFoot employee Kacy Jones helped the man, who’s in his 50s or 60s, pick out a freshly laundered pair of dress pants from Banana Republic. Knowing that he’d be dressed appropriately to honor his mother, the grateful man broke down into tears. He became even more emotional after being able to select another pair of pants, along with a button-down shirt, a polo shirt and an undershirt.

For this grieving man, the sentiment seemed to matter more than the clothes, according to Jones. “I feel that the human connection we provided by being there for him in his time of need is what resonated with him,” Jones said.

Storie Cunningham interviewed by photojournalist
A photojournalist interviews SpareFoot’s Storie Cunningham.

Austin’s first-ever version of The Street Store—a one-day pop-up store staffed by SpareFoot volunteers—provided free clothing to more than 200 homeless people in Austin, including the man mourning his mother. SpareFoot sponsored the store in conjunction with Central Presbyterian Church.

“What became even more evident to us during the event was that there is definitely a huge need for The Street Store,” said SpareFoot employee Storie Cunningham, who organized the temporary store. “So many people came through needing nice slacks or new jeans for job opportunities, and we even had a few people come up with no shoes on, completely barefoot on the streets.”

About 45 SpareFoot volunteers, along with a handful of friends-and-family helpers, handed out close to 1,000 pounds of donated clothes, such as jeans, pants and shirts, according to Cunningham. At the end of the event, only about six to seven bags of women’s clothing remained, all of which was donated to Central Presbyterian Church.

“Given the awesome success of this first Street Store, it’s safe to assume that SpareFoot will be hosting another one this winter,” Cunningham said. “Not only that, but we’ve been contacted by a couple other companies in the area that that are wanting to get involved as well, which is exciting.”

Street Store shopper
A Street Store shopper beams after picking up her clothes.

Cunningham said it’s amazing how much of a difference a few items of clothing can make to a homeless person.

“I think the most important message we can send to the public is that there are truly awesome people here in Austin who want to help their community but never really know how,” she said, “and I feel like The Street Store really helps solve that mystery and empowers those who want to make a difference.”

To learn more about the SpareFoot-sponsored Street Store, visit blog.sparefoot.com/7578-sparefoot-supported-store-will-help-clothe-homeless.

Photos by Brooke Noden