A store providing free essential items and resources recently opened in Rogers Park for everyone — no questions asked.
The Rogers Park Free Store (1407 W. Morse Ave.) was founded by members of the PO Box Collective, Rogers Park Community Response Team and Rogers Park Food Not Bombs, according to its Facebook page. Karen Gilbert, who helped launch the store, said the property was initially a pharmacy that was converted into a hub for the community.
Gilbert, who is also a member of the PO Box Collective and Rogers Park Food Not Bombs, said the store carries a wide range of products — including toiletries, menstrual hygiene products, cleaning supplies and medical supplies, among other things. She said a majority of the items distributed are unopened with the exception of gently used clothing, shoes, bedding and other miscellaneous products.
Gilbert said the purpose of opening the store was to provide people with free essential supplies so they can cover other expenses, including rent, bills and food for their families.
“If folks can get what they need to survive, it lessens the need to acquire these supplies in ways that could potentially put them in contact with law enforcement,” Gilbert said.
In addition to offering free essential items, Gilbert said the store also directs people to community resources, including mental health services, tenant support and financial aid. To provide these resources to the community, she said the store partnered with the Living Room Project, Chicago Metropolitan Tenants Union, Chicago Union of the Homelessness and Democratic Socialists of America Chicago.
The store — which is funded through community donations — works on a non-hierarchical model, which means it doesn’t have centralized leadership, according to Gilbert. She said the store’s operation is collectively managed by volunteers and members of the three founding organizations.
Organizers hope to expand the store in the future once they receive more funding, according to Gilbert. She said while they currently operate three days a week — Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — they would like to add a fourth day to serve people in need. However, she said they need an additional $1,000-2,000 in donations per week to achieve that.
During the two hours per open day, Gilbert said around 100-150 people use their services.
Those interested in donating to the store can check out the Rogers Park Free Store’s Linktree.