They sent out fliers on social media. They reached out to family friends asking for donations. They made sure news of the effort was spread via word of mouth: a pop-up shop for low-income and homeless individuals was coming to “Awesometown.”
On Friday, just off Cinema Drive in Newhall, West Ranch High senior Joel Yoon and 35 other high school students were preparing for the next day’s unique feat at the building that usually housed the Global Prep Academy learning center.
The young volunteers were transforming the center into a way for homeless people to browse a selection of free items, organized in the style of a real store called “The Oasis.”
“We started collecting the big stuff a few weeks ago,” Yoon said, gesturing around the room. “The idea came during the summer. But the planning really began at the end of November, and it’s come together really fast.”
Everyone perused garbage bags of donated clothes, food, toiletries and various other items, distributing them to rooms with designated purposes.
The entryway would serve as the ‘clothing section’ for 1,600 donated garments. Shorts, pants, skirts, T-shirts and jackets would be neatly folded in piles on tables and hung on racks for people to comb through.
Then individuals in need could make their way over to rooms with dozens of boxes of bananas, bread, canned goods and other perishables, and also a room with toilet paper, hairspray, tooth brushes and bobby pins. Shoes and accessories took up the last room, and all would be manned by student volunteers escorting and advising their “customers.”
Yoon, event organizer of The Oasis, had started this pop-up shop project after he heard of the city of Santa Clarita approving a municipal code amendment that prevented people from “living” in public places, such as sleeping on sidewalks.
Yoon said he thought the amendment was unfair in lieu of a year-round shelter in Santa Clarita for homeless individuals.
“I kept hearing all these stories about people getting shipped to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles from Santa Clarita because they weren’t allowed to be here,” he said. “I don’t think it’s justified when our shelter doesn’t accommodate all the people living here.”
So Yoon decided he wanted to bring some cheer at the end of the year to people if he couldn’t provide them shelter.
For weeks, the students had been curating the selection that came to their collection site at the Global Prep Academy center from organizations like Help The Children-Santa Clarita, classmates, parents and others.
Hannah Park, also a West Ranch senior, was responsible for designing the fliers and banners promoting the event. She said that, last year, high school volunteers coincidentally organized a similar event to help the homeless.
That event had a less curated selection of items, but this year is different.
“We didn’t want people to just dump stuff,” she said. “So we sorted everything really carefully, and had more of a word of mouth emphasis on collecting stuff.”
Yoon hopes the project will continue next year even after he graduates.
“It’s really important that we help all these people lost in the cracks of society,” he said.
The pop-up shop is going on Saturday at Global Prep Academy at 23110 Cinema Drive, No. 105, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.