FOR THE LOVE OF READING AND HELPING THE HOMELESS

FOR THE LOVE OF READING AND HELPING THE HOMELESS

Lifestyle Centre is thrilled to welcome Sbusiso Mnguni, a Denis Hurley Centre Street Lit book vendor, to his new pop-up pre-loved book shop at The Studios.

StreetLit is an award-winning innovation of the Denis Hurley Centre, Durban’s leading NGO that helps the homeless by focusing on helping homeless people to become financially self-reliant. The Street Lit book project comprises 20 people all of whom have experienced homelessness in one way or another, or who have been rehabilitated whilst on the cusp of becoming homeless. All are bibliophiles and have been trained to run their own micro book businesses. According to Street Lit Co-ordinator, Illa Thompson, “What unites us is we all believe in the power of the written word. All of us are avid readers, who truly want to share our love for literature, while earning a modest income.”

The Street Lit project identifies homeless people, who have a love of books and reading and an aptitude to set up their own business, to be trained, supported and nurtured by the Denis Hurley Centre. The project bookstore in Durban sources books through donations made by individuals, schools, old age homes, churches and local publishers. The booksellers select books from the project bookstore, pay a nominal charge for them and then sell them at designated areas. All the money that they make are their profits. From the project’s inception in mid-2018, more than 30 vendors have been identified and trained, of whom around 20 are still currently active vendors.

Lifestyle Centre has provided Sbusiso with a space in The Studios from which to make a living, after responding to an appeal by Street Lit for a suitable venue north of Durban. This is particularly pertinent to the theme of The Gallery’s newest art exhibition, RISE, which explores the themes of courage, resilience, unity, empowerment, the importance of sharing our stories and the power of individual voices coming together to create meaningful change. It also adds another unique retail element to The Studios, as Lifestyle Centre so-owner, Bruce Rencken, explains, “We believe that Sbu’s books are a good fit for The Studios and the customers who frequent The Studios, given that it is a contemplative and creative place where thought and conversations are stimulated.”

Street Lit has found that long-term venue partners are highly effective in enabling regular income and structure for their vendors. As Illa expounds, “It is the steadiness of the income, as much as the total amount, that is important for the vendors.  Once they can anticipate a certain amount of income per week, they can pre-pay for a shelter (and thus not have to check in and out every day) and in many cases have been able to rent a room, house-share or even a modest flat. Additionally, when a vendor has a regular position, selling most days, not only can they rely on a regular income stream but they shift their self-perception and their ability to reintegrate with society. We offer a feel-good experience for the customer knowing that by buying an affordable indulgence for themselves they are also helping a homeless person and helping the environment by reducing landfill.”

Sbusiso can be found next to The Gallery in The Studios at Lifestyle Centre. Customers are invited to browse his books, perhaps over a cup of coffee from Coffee Lab, and possibly find something unique, interesting or nostalgic.