On Saturday, December 19, SMYAL hosted its first ever “Free Store” at its location in Eastern Market. The Free Store provided more than 40 homeless LGBTQ youth and community members with the opportunity to pick up items such as toiletries, school supplies, and winter clothing in preparation for the new-year.
LGBTQ youth continue to experience homelessness at far greater rates than their heterosexual peers, and homeless transgender youth in particular often face unique obstacles to gaining access to gender-affirming clothing and products.
The “Free Store” was able to serve 40 customers over the course of four hours. Merchandise that populated the store, totaling upwards of 300 individual items, was amassed through donation drives in four Washington, D.C. Metro Area high schools as well as by Washington, D.C. based men’s clothing store Universal Gear. Additionally, SMYAL provided food and warm beverages to store customers. Monet Umana, SMYAL Youth Council leader and organizer of the Free Store, was thrilled to see the items went to good use.
“Many came empty handed and left with a coat on their back, many sweaters, bars of soap, and full stomachs,” said Umana. “The community truly felt the impact of SMYAL’s presence,” said Umana.
SMYAL intends to host another Free Store in the spring, and hopes to include more undergarments among its merchandise, as per the request of customers. The Free Store is just one of several new initiatives launched by SMYAL this year including a scholarship program for youth leaders, a cell phone program to get phones in the hands of homeless LGBTQ youth, Youth Fellows leadership program, and enhanced programming in schools throughout the region.