CityTeam Pop-up Closet Provides Makeovers, Transforms Lives

Adi and Julia said they felt like they were movie stars.

Surrounded by estheticians, makeup artists and designers, the two women—whose last names are behind withheld upon request due to the sensitive nature of their situations—underwent a makeover last Saturday at a CityTeam pop-up closet event in Milpitas.

“I felt very pampered,” Adi said in an interview with San Jose Inside.

Adi and Julia are part of CityTeam’s House of Grace, a residential program for women to help restore their lives from the grips of addiction and homelessness. A faith-based nonprofit with locations throughout the Bay Area, CityTeam received a generous support from Walmart and other donors to help stock its pop-up closet event.

In a church parking lot with Covid safety measures in place, Adi and Julia received makeovers from beauty professionals—which could very well be a metaphor for the transformation each is undergoing in their lives.

Adi is in her second stint going through the House of Grace program, having relapsed on alcohol a couple of months into the pandemic.

Adi, 29, had previously graduated from the yearlong House of Grace program in September 2019. She counts herself fortunate to have CityTeam provide her with the resources necessary to keep her sober going forward. Being able to keep a new set of clothes has given Adi a renewed sense of purpose and outlook.

“It totally boosted my confidence,” she said, “because at this stage of my program, I’m doing job interview preparations. Once I start interviewing for jobs, having clothes that make you look like a professional makes a huge difference.”

Julia, 30, described herself as a “former 17-year drug addict who is now 13 months sober.” She has been in the House of Grace program for six months, following a stint in county jail that started shortly after her arrest on May 30, 2019. It was at that point in which Julia started to turn her life around.

“I decided it was time for a change,” she said. “When I got arrested, I was so grateful to go to jail because I had just had a relapse. And it was then I made a conscious decision to give my life to God and to stop letting myself down and my family down.”

CityTeam’s impact on Julia has been nothing short of monumental. Through a step-by-step process featuring a variety of classes, meetings and other activities, Julia’s mind has been renewed. “CityTeam has literally changed my life,” she said.

CityTeam’s pop-up closet events occur one to two times a month, depending on the need of a particular area. Individuals and families receive advance notice to come to the pop-up closet events and pick out a new outfit which has been supplied from generous donors. CityTeam’s food pantry and mobile food program serves 1,400 households every month, and the popup closet program has been every bit as impactful.

“The feedback we’re getting is phenomenal,” Hermie Smit, one of CityTeam’s neighborhood leaders, told San Jose Inside. “We’ve identified clothing as consistently one of the top five needs for a household.”

Smit has been with CityTeam since 2001, and has seen firsthand the detrimental effects of the dot-com bust in the early 2000s and the recession in 2008. However, Covid-19 has done immeasurable damage, both physically and mentally.

“I’ve never seen desperation like what we’ve seen for the past eight months in our neighborhoods,” Smit said. “In all of these crises, the low-income communities are affected the most. Being able to make a difference in the midst of such tough times has been incredibly rewarding.”

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