Background to the programme
Since 2004, the EPHATA association has managed a "solidarity café". This friendly space offers breakfast (from 9.00am to 10.00am), administrative assistance and lunch (12.30). In this space to welcome and listen to people, everyone helps each other and participates in the operation of the association. The lack of funding to sustain this initiative has led to the association setting up a changing room to generate financial resources while creating solidarity. EPHATA seized the opportunity created by the closing of the Secours Populaire changing room in the Fives neighbourhood by opening their own.
Besides this financial incentive, the president of the association has found that many people among the users are accustomed to buying new, branded clothes. Significant educational work was needed to show them that buying second hand clothing was not shameful and takes less of a toll on their budget.
Objectives of the programme
- Ensure the self-financing of the association
- Increase the purchasing power of individuals by making savings on clothes
- Promote the recycling of clothes as part of a process of sustainable development
The changing room resembles a traditional clothing shop:
- Buyers are considered to be customers, not users. The sale of clothing is accessible to anyone without the need to show evidence of resources or residency.
- The clothes that come from private donations are first sorted by volunteers in order to only sell the clothes judged to be in good condition.
- 6 volunteers are involved each week to sort the clothes, put them on the shelves, to welcome the customers and record their purchases.
The changing room premises are located on the ground floor of the association and are open 3 days a week
Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions
- Volunteers find meaning to their day by playing a role in this initiative and in the association.
- Increase the number of customers (their number has doubled since the changing room was created)
- Existence of regular customers
- The turnover from the changing room has sustained the solidarity cafe, mainly by funding the food expenses.
- Promoting the values of development: avoid waste and promote recycling
Buyers at the changing room are not seen as beneficiaries of the association but as customers like at any prêt à porter shop from the traditional commercial sector.
Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme
The Lille Association "L'île de la solidarité"
Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :
- Insufficient human resources to ensure the correct operation of the changing room
- The volunteers are constantly tempted to buy the clothes on sale.
Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :
To decrease the volunteers’ temptation to buy, a book that lists the sales was made available to them so that they could become aware of the number of purchases made.
Suggestions for future improvement :
- Direct the changing room’s actions towards styling to show that it’s possible for everyone to dress well without resorting to clothing brands. For example, events around clothing so that individuals have a clear image of themselves and so that they subsequently accept the differences.
- Modulate the prices based on the financial means of the buyers (while being careful of the risks of stigmatisation)
Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :
- The changing room belongs to the users and volunteers: everyone is an actor by participating in the organisation of the space.
- Neutral perspective on the customers
- No requirements vis-à-vis the volunteers
- Accord a lot of trust to each person and value the efforts of individuals