Take a Look Inside Mustard Tree’s Community Shops

How Donating Second-hand Goods Can Help Someone Facing Poverty

Mustard Tree’s Ancoats Hub

Greater Manchester charity, Mustard Tree, began with a goal to people who were street homeless and others facing poverty access to essential items like food and clothing, in a more dignified way. Founded in 1993, Mustard Tree started as a makeshift operation, giving out free food, clothing, and furniture in Manchester city centre. Mustard Tree set out to create opportunity for people to live comfortably, no matter their financial situation or circumstances.

Since the charity was established over 25 years ago, Mustard Tree has grown and evolved — but the aim to give dignity and opportunity to people in poverty is still the same.

What is the Community Shop?

Mustard Tree has three Community Shops, in Ancoats, Eccles and Little Hulton, allowing people across Greater Manchester to access second-hand clothing and home items for a discounted price.

The Community Shop sells everything from trainers and t-shirts to toys to microwaves, washing machines and fridge freezers. For many people, Mustard Tree is the only place they’re able to get hold of good quality items; it’s a lifeline for many people facing poverty. “The Community Shop gives people the dignity to choose how they want their homes to look and how they live their lives” says Mustard Tree, Lindsey, Retail and Logistics Manager, “people facing extreme poverty should still be able to access high quality items”.

How does the Community Shop work?

The Community Shop differs from a conventional charity shop as, although everyone is welcome, it caters specifically to people facing financial instability. The Community Shops are central to everything Mustard Tree does and can serve as a gateway for clients to access other services, like the Freedom Project (Mustard Tree’s life skills and employability programme) and Clubs and Classes.

Mustard Tree provides Community Shop credit and discounts for clients, like 25% discount for people on low or no income and credit for people who are homeless. Mustard Tree’s new tenancy scheme gives previously homeless people access to furniture and essential items for their new accommodation. Lindsey says, “The Community Shop’s primary focus is giving people the opportunity to access the things they need to live comfortably”. The new tenancy scheme gifts clients £60 in the form of a furniture voucher, which they can use to get items like sofas, beds and wardrobes. Between July — December 2021, Mustard Tree was able to gift 729 individuals with vouchers to help them furnish their new homes.

“People facing extreme poverty should still be able to access high quality items”.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mustard Tree’s Community Shops have become more important than ever. “During the first Covid-19 lockdown, we had clients who were leaving hospitals or moving into new homes with no furniture — we were able to supply emergency furniture packages for these people, when a lot of other charities had to close” says Lindsey. “We also saw a massive demand for dining and office furniture, because children were having to do schoolwork on the floor”.

Despite the vaccine roll-out and easing of restrictions, Greater Manchester is still disproportionately feeling the effects of Covid-19. Reports have found that areas already facing deprivation have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and the effects on lockdowns. The pandemic has put a disproportionate burden on people on low-income, ethnic minorities, elderly people, and people with disabilities. “We’ve seen a rise in the amount of people accessing new tenancy vouchers and a rise in footfall” says Retail Co-ordinator Heather, “we’re definitely seeing more people who are receiving benefits, that need our services”.

How can you help?

Mustard Tree’s Community Shop relies on donations of good quality furniture and clothing to meet the growing need for food, furniture and clothing provision in Manchester and Salford. “When people donate furniture and clothing to our Community Shops, they’re helping us combat poverty and provide dignity to our clients” — says Lindsey. By donating unwanted clothing, white goods, kitchen appliances and other household items, you can make a huge positive change to someone’s life.

Mustard Tree Warehouse Manager, Paul, with a donation of kitchen appliances.

Shopping for pre-loved clothing at Mustard Tree supports all aspects of the charity, as the money raised by The Community Shops also goes towards funding other essential services, including food costs. Inflation and the hike in energy prices means that more and more people will be squeezed by the cost of living crisis. Buying from Mustard Tree’s Community Shop, helps the charity to provide food and hardship support, in a time when many in Manchester and Salford are facing poverty.

Thank you to everyone who had donated and supported Mustard Tree’s Community Shop before, during and after the pandemic!

Click here to find out more about how you can support our Community Shops in 2022.