The staff at Qualitown Thrift Store in Campbell River pose for a photograph. Every second and fourth monday of the month, they will be welcoming homeless people to come and take things that they need from the store. Binny Paul photo

The staff at Qualitown Thrift Store in Campbell River pose for a photograph. Every second and fourth monday of the month, they will be welcoming homeless people to come and take things that they need from the store. Binny Paul photo

‘Ask and you shall receive,’ store says to Campbell Riverites experiencing homelessness

Campbell River thrift store offers free shopping for the homeless to deter theft

Tired of break-ins, a Campbell River thrift store is opening its door to people experiencing homelessness to shop for free two days a month.

On Dec. 14, Caroline Bleaney the store manager of Qualitown Thrift Store on Shoppers Row, had warm food waiting for people experiencing homelessness who would walk in to the store.

By mid-morning a few of them came by, took what they needed and got a home cooked meal that Bleaney had made for them.

“They picked up socks, jackets, blankets – warm clothes mostly,” said one of the Qualitown staff.

Every second and fourth Monday of the month, the store plans to continue with this program. The idea was Bleaney’s solution to solve the “constant theft issues” at the store.

“We kept having break-ins and we saw people taking away things through the CCTV recordings,” Bleaney said.

So she decided to address the “root” of this issue with a Christian principle: “Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find it, knock and the doors shall be opened,” Bleaney quoted scripture, explaining the concept of ‘homeless Mondays’ at Qualitown.

The staff at the store also see the program as a way to get together with the people experiencing homelessness, hear them and understand their problems.

“We want to create an avenue for them to ask for what they need,” she said.

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, even social workers faced a dilemma when it came to handing out clothes to people experiencing homelessness because of safety protocols aimed to curb the spread of the virus. When the thrift store reopened after the first wave lock down, Bleaney realized that they could give out the donated products at the store that were already sanitized.

The store management and the community have been supportive of Bleaney’s initiative, she said.

The bigger picture is to help get people out of the streets, “one person at a time.”

“So even if five people can be helped through what we’re doing it can create a ripple effect of change in the future,” she said.

The menu for the next open house – to be held on Dec.28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m – is already planned.

“It’s going to be spaghetti and meatballs,” Bleaney said excitedly.

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