Justin Baldoni’s 'Carnival of Love' brings a day of joy and services to 4,000 people experiencing homelessness
Wayfarer Foundation/BC Serna

As an actor, Justin Baldoni is best known for playing heartthrob Rafael on Jane the Virgin. As a director, he's known for the CW series My Last Days and the feature film Five Feet Apart. But away from the screen, the 36-year-old husband and father of two is recognized for spending his time trying to make the world a better place.


Through his non-profit organization, The Wayfarer Foundation, Baldoni is trying to transform how individuals and communities see and respond to people experiencing homelessness. One way is through the annual Skid Row Carnival of Love, an idea that emerged out of Baldoni's annual tradition of bringing supplies to Skid Row on his birthday in lieu of a party.

"I had a dream six years ago," Baldoni told Upworthy at this year's event, "as weird as it sounds—to bring a carnival, which is really a day of joy, where people would come together to lift up this community and remind them of their worth."

Now every year at the end of January, Wayfarer blocks of 20,000 square feet of Skid Row in Los Angeles for a day to put on the Skid Row Carnival of Love. They invite the whole neighborhood as honored guests, literally roll out the red carpet for them, and bring in every kind of service someone experiencing homeless might need, including career services, housing services, domestic violence services, dental and medical exams, an eye clinic, haircuts, massages, and more.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Meyer

"When you live on the street and you don't have an address, it's very hard to actually get off the street," explains Baldoni, "to show up at the appointments on time, to make sure you're doing everything right to get into a house. And it's very hard to keep a job...so we're trying to bring everything to them in one place so they don't have to go through each of the individual missions to have their services offered."

But the carnival is about more than just providing needed services—it's really about forming bonds between human beings. "Our mission is, through friendship, to make a little dent in the homeless epidemic," says Baldoni.

"The way this carnival works is that all these volunteers—there's a line of our friends experiencing homelessness outside, and then there's a line of volunteers inside—and they all get paired one to one," Baldoni explains. "And they walk through the carnival together. Because at its core, it's about friendship."

Baldoni's own friendship with a man named Willie began on Skid Row four years ago. Willie told Upworthy that the sounds of the carnival being set up that year woke him up, and at first he was annoyed by it. "But when I really woke up and saw what was really going on, it brought me to tears," he said. "The resources he had out here, I needed it at that time. It did something for me."

Justin and Willie met at the Skid Row Carnival of Love in 2016.Photo courtesy of The Wayfarer Foundation

Willie approached Baldoni after his introduction speech that year. "Thank you for seeing us," Willie told him, "and thank you for seeing me." Baldoni embraced Willie in a warm hug and their bond was formed. Willie has become a friend of the foundation as well, helping to provide valuable insight into how the carnival can best serve the needs of unhoused individuals.

Baldoni says that the biggest problem is that we forget that people living on the street are still people. "There's this idea that they're all drug addicts. Or they're all alcoholics, or they're all whatever," he says. "The biggest misconception is that there's a reason they're down here, and they're being punished for it, and they deserve it."

Willie agrees. "Nobody really wants to be down here," he says.

"We're missing the empathy and the compassion," says Baldoni. "This is the problem. That is what is missing. We're trying to solve this problem with policy and politics, and the Democrats and the Republicans are all fighting with each other about this and this. But at the end of the day, this is a human problem."

www.youtube.com

Baldoni says there's more we can all do, starting with just striking up a conversation with a person experiencing homelessness. Ask them their name, where they are from, what they like, what their dreams are, what they need right now.

He also acknowledges that there are larger issues at play. "There are systemic issues," he adds. "Deep, deeply rooted systemic issues of oppression, of racism, of a broken criminal justice system—all of the various things that would lock Willie up far before they would lock me up for the exact same offense, and that punish people who are down here for being down here."

As far as our own actions as individuals, Baldoni says there are a couple of ways we can help:

"The first thing is very easy. It is to make an effort to make eye contact and start a conversation with somebody who appears to be homeless, and just get to know them. If there's somebody on your block, if there's somebody that you pass by on the way to work every day, if there's somebody you drive by on the way to work every day—throw extra stuff in your car, roll down your window, ask them what they need, and come and see them the next day and learn their name.

The second thing you can do if you want to support us and the work of The Wayfarer Foundation—my dream is to build the one-to-one program out and show that through love and peer mentoring we can actually make a difference in the homeless epidemic—and for that we just need volunteers, we need donations, and we need support. And it's that simple. And I hope that one day I won't have to ask anybody for that because there won't be any people on the street. But that's not where we are today."

Baldoni points out that the ultimate goal of his foundation is to be so successful in its work that it's no longer needed. "The goal is to not be here," he says. "I shouldn't have to have a foundation, and I shouldn't have to throw a carnival. None of these places should exist. And if you're a non-profit that really, really cares, you should want to be out of business."

Learn more about the work of the Wayfarer Foundation here.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

Keep Reading Show less

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

Keep Reading Show less