A local non-profit striving to match San Francisco’s unhoused neighbors with a good pair of shoes is seeking community donations at a family-friendly holiday event this weekend.
Sole Stop was founded last December by Haley Myer, who was born and raised in the lower Haight and is a “real sneaker head,” according to Sole Stop operations manager Yves-Langston Barthaud.
Myer wanted to use her passion for shoes for good by starting an organization to redistribute underused shoes to those in need, Barthaud told us.
Barthaud met Myer and Sole Stop’s other operations manager, Elizabeth De Nola, working as interns for former District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim. The three San Francisco natives were all born in 1983 and have strong community ties.
Barthaud and De Nola helped launch It’s Your District as a way to connect students with Tenderloin-area nonprofit organizations in need of smart workers. It's Your District now helps recruit interns for more than 100 organizations across the city.
Barthaud, who is executive director of It’s Your District, said it is serving as Sole Stop’s fiscal sponsor during this early start-up phase, as it works to become its own organizational entity.
Sole Stop launched in December 2018, and has since partnered multiple times with Lava Mae to distribute donated shoes to visitors of its Pop Up Care Villages. Lava Mae supports mobile showers and toilets on wheels at regular locations across the Bay Area as well as Los Angeles. Its Pop Up Care Villages recruit other nonprofits to offer a variety of services in one location so nearby homeless communities can access them all at once.
Sole Stop has offered shoe “stores” at bi-monthly Pop Up Care Villages over the past year, and at each event has handed out between 350 and 400 pairs of shoes for free, according to Barthaud.
Most of the shoes are new or lightly used donations from individuals, but Sole Stop also offers a “shoe drive kit” for anyone that wants to host a collection effort at their work, school, or other community. The tool kit includes signs and information about the organization that can be distributed to encourage others to bring in shoes. At least four different San Francisco-based companies have said they’re hosting drives to collect shoes for Sole Stop over the holidays, Barthaud said.
To kick off the holiday season, Sole Stop is partnering with the Children’s Creativity Museum to host a shoe drive during the museum’s Holiday Carousel Event on Saturday, November 30. Along with the shoe drive, activities will include refreshments, face painting, and free carousel rides, all from 4-7 p.m.
Other than shoes, Sole Stop is always seeking new sock donations. Socks are actually more frequently requested than shoes, Barthaud said. You can learn more about Sole Stop’s work on its website, and sign up to volunteer at one of the Pop Up Care Villages or other shoe distribution events.