Vancouver Street Store 6.0 - Employ to Empower

Store of donations, selling free items.

The Vancouver Street Store  is a free outdoor pop-up store, facilitated by Employ to Empower , that takes place annually in December for residents in the Downtown Eastside. The goal of this event is to provide a dignified holiday shopping experience where residents are uplifted and offered a hand up rather than a hand out. Since 2014, the Street Store has made an impact in the community by working with 200+ volunteers, sharing 40,800+ donations and spreading holiday cheer to more than 5,000 residents.

The Vancouver Street Store was the inspiration behind Employ to Empower, a registered Canadian charity supporting Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community by providing access to development and entrepreneurial resources (including affordable microloans and business mentorship with the goal of having a long term impact on personal and economic well-being). Employ to Empower also actively advocates for positive social change in the Downtown Eastside community.


Vancouver’s annual Street Store is set to open again this Christmas, but organizers are in need of a little help with funding to make sure this special holiday event goes ahead. Usually, event costs are covered by Employ to Empower and event sponsors, but this year, costs have risen significantly, leaving the Street Store in need of some help. We are hoping to raise $15,000 to make sure this year’s Street Store can go ahead in December – and return every year for the foreseeable future.



Every December, Vancouver hosts an annual free, dignified shopping experience for Downtown Eastside residents called the Vancouver Street Store . It was started in 2014 by Christina Wong and takes place in the heart of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood at the intersection of Columbia and Hastings. Through her time leading and organizing the event, and through conversations that she had, she gained a better perspective in to the real challenges and experiences of people living and working in the DTES.

At the Street Store in 2017 she met a 4 year old boy named Justin who would effectively change the course of her life forever. Upon opening the doors of the Street Store Justin came running in, full of energy and liveliness, excited about the possibility of finding a toy for Christmas.
After spotting the guitar in Christina’s hands he charged at her full force and immediately began playing with the strings and trying to make music. Later on, Christina had the opportunity to meet the boys parents, and chat with them about the grief they felt about not being able to properly provide for their son due to lack of stable income.

It was in that moment that the idea for Employ to Empower was first born and Christina’s quest to positively impact the DTES community through employment and entrepreneurship began. The following month Christina quit her full time job and with the support of her co-founder, Stephanie Chan, officially launched Employ to Empower.


Employ to Empower is a registered charity that supports residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside community by providing access to development and entrepreneurial resources. Our resources include affordable microloans and business mentorship with the goal of having a long term impact on our members personal and economic well-being. We also actively advocate for creating positive social change in the Downtown Eastside community.


A Downtown Eastside community free of stigma, where residents self-sustain through entrepreneurship.


Employ to Empower takes a compassion focused, holistic approach to empowering residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through development, entrepreneurship and advocacy.


Pillar One: Development 
We provide interested residents in the Downtown Eastside the opportunity to enrol in a six week development program, specializing in soft skills and basic business fundamentals. We also connect residents in our development program with essential resources, such as counselling, housing, or substance use support. Our goal through the development program is to give residents a hand up, by growing their skill set and empowering their self-confidence.

Pillar Two: Entrepreneurship
Residents in the Downtown Eastside who complete our development program have the opportunity to join our entrepreneurship program. Entrepreneurs in the program are supported by business professionals through personalized weekly mentorship sessions and have access to affordable microloans. Our goal through the entrepreneurship program is to have a long term sustainable economic effect on our members.

Pillar Three: Advocacy
We act as advocates for the Downtown Eastside throughout the wider Vancouver community. We are committed to community outreach and facilitating creative events such as exhibitions and dialogue sessions for our members. We also distribute essential resources in a dignified way to residents in need at our seasonal Street Store. Our goal through advocacy is to bring about positive social change for residents of the Downtown Eastside by challenging the common misperceptions and shifting the current order. We envision a Downtown Eastside community free of stigma where residents are seen, heard and validated


Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is considered one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. Currently, there are many amazing non-profits tackling the issue of homelessness, and while this is important, we also believe that supporting people in the long term is equally as important. Our goal is for people to make it in the long run financially, socially and mentally.

Employ to Empower strongly believe that despite our socioeconomic status, physical appearance, experiences, choices, we all experience the same emotional spectrum, and equally deserve to feel seen, heard and validated. We support people in feeling seen, heard and validated by empowering their self confidence and sense of worthiness.


  • Ed Lee
    • $20 
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $200 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs
  • SFU External Relations
    • $1,000 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $300 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Jessica Borich
Vancouver, BC
Christina Wong

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