Homer thrift: more than a second-hand store

For women and children staying at South Peninsula Haven House, the domestic violence shelter has an in-house second-hand clothing supply. Called “My Sister’s Closet,” it’s provided clients with clothing and other supplies to help them get their lives back together. Now, Haven House has expanded that idea with its new second-hand store, Homer Thrift.

Opening at 9 a.m. Saturday at its shop in the East End Mini Storage complex next to Redden Marine, Homer Thrift not only gives the town another source of second-hand clothing and household goods, it offers Haven House clients training in job skills and work experience. During closed hours, clients will sort, display and price items for sale. Volunteers and Haven House staff will run the store during open hours.

This week, Haven House Executive Director Jessica Lawmaster gave a tour of the shop. Like second-hand stores Pick n’ Pay, run by Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, and Salvation Army, Homer Thrift has a good selection of clothing and shoes for women, men and children; pots, pans, dishes and silverware; toys; books, and furniture. Lawmaster modeled a funky jacket that looks as warm as it is hip. All of the items will be priced low.

“We want it to be an affordable thrift store where people feel like they’re getting good deals,” she said.

Homer Thrift came about as an expansion of My Sister’s Closet, but also because Haven House sometimes gets more donations of items than it can use. If it didn’t have a client in need, Haven House would donate goods elsewhere. With Homer Thrift, Haven House can sell those goods, make a little money for its programs and provide job experience for clients.

That idea — “economic empowerment,” Lawmaster calls it — is a new focus for Haven House. Providing women and families shelter from domestic violence is one thing, but for them to thrive and not just survive, women need job skills. Some women need more experience to get back in the work place while others have never worked jobs outside the home before.

“It’s just a very common barrier we see,” Lawmaster said. “(Homer Thrift) is hopefully a first step toward sustaining economic opportunities for women.”

The lack of job skills also sometimes keeps women in harmful relationships.

“That’s often a strategy used by perpetrators, creating that dependence,” Lawmaster said.

Ingrid Harrald, a graduate student working on her masters in social work with the University of Alaska Anchorage, has been helping organize Homer Thrift as part of her practicum course work. Wells Fargo also donated $5,000 as a challenge grant to get the store running. Wells Fargo staff also will be doing a cash handling class for clients. Lawmaster said she welcomes support from businesses who want to do training or offer financial support.

Haven House clients will get paid in stipends. It also would be possible for working age children to help out at Homer Thrift. Haven House has been talking with The Center’s Pride Program to offer opportunities for developmentally disabled people to work at the store.

Haven House had solicited donations using the “My Sister’s Closet” name, but changed it because people thought it was a women’s clothing store. It’s more than that, Lawmaster said.

It’s also more than a thrift store. At the store, Lawmaster had set aside a pile of smart jackets and blouses for clients to wear to job interviews. Looking sharp is one goal, but the bigger goal is getting ready for work.

“It can be life changing to really grow those skills and step out there,” Lawmaster said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at