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homeless

Photo by Jackie Cook/MyLondon Photography Contest.

Many locks of bright, pink hair peek around the corner of the stairwell.


A group of 105 homeless people gathered at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

Each of them was given a disposable camera and told to take pictures that represent "my London."

The photos were entered in an annual contest run by London-based nonprofit Cafe Art, which gives homeless artists the chance to have their work displayed around the city and, for some of the photographers who participate in the yearly challenge, in a print calendar.


"Some people have had experience, and others have never picked up a camera before," said Paul Ryan, co-director of Cafe Art.

The program, Ryan explained, includes mentorship and training from professional volunteers at the Royal Photographic Society, including winners of the contest from previous years, many of whom are ultimately inducted into the society.

contest, London, social circles, job market

A "Drivers Wanted" sign in the window from the MyLondon Photography Contest.

Photo by Richard Fletcher/MyLondon Photography Contest. All photos used with permission.

The goal of the challenge is to help participants gain the confidence to get back on the job market, search for housing, re-engage with their social circles, or even activate dormant skills.

"I really enjoyed it. And I started to get involved in my art again, which I'd left for years," a 2015 participant said in a video for the organization's Kickstarter campaign.

These are 11 of the top vote-getters from this year's contest:

1. Ella Sullivan — "Heart Bike Rack"

bike rack, photography, hearts, charity

A heart shaped bike rack.

Photo by Ella Sullivan/MyLondon Photography Contest

2. Alana Del Valle — "London Bus with Sculpture"

double-decker-bus, sculpture, contest

A red-double-decker-bus behind a mirrored sculpture.

Photo by Alana Del Valle/MyLondon Photography Contest

3. Beatrice — "Out of the Blue"

shadows, hands, artist, art

A hand shadow reaches up the wall toward a water container.

Photo by Beatrice/MyLondon Photography Contest

4. Laz Ozerden — "What Now?"

charity, donations, pan handling

Open hands accepting donations.

Photo by Laz Ozerden/MyLondon Photography Contest

5. Leo Shaul — "The Coffee Roaster"

coffee, roasters, model

A long coat hugs “The Coffee Roaster."

Photo by Leo Shaul/MyLondon Photography Contest

6. Christopher McTavish — "St. Paul's in Reflection"

St. Paul\u2019s, historic buildings, government

St. Paul’s cast a reflection against a blue shoe in a puddle.

Photo by Christopher McTavish/MyLondon Photography Contest

7. Hugh Gary — "London Calling"

phone booth, red kiosk, iconic

London calling.

Photo by Hugh Gary/MyLondon Photography Contest

8. Keith Norris — "Watching Mannequin"

mannequin, window display, reflections

Rolling your eyes at a mannequin.

Photo by Keith Norris/MyLondon Photography Contest

9. Siliana — "After the Rain"

tourism, tour boats, bridges, rain

A boat cruises under the bridge after a rainy day.

Photo by Siliana/MyLondon Photography Contest

10. Saffron Saidi — "Graffiti Area"

street art, graffiti, Dalmatians

Life reflecting art.

Photo by Saffron Saidi/MyLondon Photography Contest

11. Jackie Cook — "Underground Exit"

transportation, walking, stairwell, hide-n-seek

Who’s that in the stairwell?

Photo by Jackie Cook/MyLondon Photography Contest

Ryan, who has been developing the program for seven years, said that while there's no one-size-fits-all solution for individuals who are homeless, for some who are too used to being "knocked back," the experience of seeing their work on display or in print — and of success — can be invaluable.

"Everyone is helped in a different way, to get up to the next step in whatever way they need to."


This article originally appeared on 08.17.16

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

No longer homeless, Aaliyah definitely has something worth smiling about.

Sometimes the internet is like a great big community. One that supports its members who are in need of help.

Aaliyah (@oc.liyahh) revealed her struggles of working full-time, without a home of her own, in a heartfelt TikTok video. Little did she know that sharing her story would lead to not only sincere support from total strangers online, but some actual solutions for her problem.

As a full-time employee at Home Depot, Aaliyah worked eight-hour shifts, five days a week. But once she clocked out, it didn’t get much easier.

Having only her car for shelter, Aaliyah would have to use facilities like Planet Fitness to take a shower, only occasionally being able to afford a night in a hotel. With those kinds of challenges, it’s perfectly understandable she admitted to always being tired and “barely ever smiling.”

@oc.liyahh #fypシ #viraltiktok ♬ Sure Thing (cover version) - Tik Toker

Aaliyah’s clip soon went viral with more than 5 million views, and though there were some accusations of Aaliyah “faking it,” the overall response was incredibly supportive. Some even came out to share similar experiences.

“I used to sleep in my car and take showers at the gym also and worked two jobs and barely slept,” one person wrote, encouraging her with, “now I own a small business, my house and two vehicles.”

Another added, “keep at it. I was homeless…I would shower at friends’ houses and ride a bike to work. Now I got my own place and car.”

It does help to hear how others have overcome obstacles you’re currently facing, but Aaliyah received even more reason to remain hopeful.

Unbeknown to her, Aaliyah’s very workplace could provide assistance. Many TikTok users informed her of the Homer Fund, a grant program that provides financial assistance to employees facing hardship. According to the company website, more than 150,000 associates have already been helped.

In a series of follow up videos, we find out that Aaliyah did reach out to the Homer Fund, and received not only emergency funding to get a hotel, but permanent housing as well.

This young woman went from “barely being able to smile” to dancing and feeling “beyond grateful.”

Last May, when the Northern California city of Santa Rosa announced they were temporarily putting up 70 socially distanced tents for people experiencing homelessness in the parking lot of the Finley Community Center—a popular park and aquatic complex where families regularly gather for recreation—residents of the upscale neighborhood revolted.

According to the Los Angeles Times, some of the commentary from the hundreds of people who complained about the proposed 'tent city' included:

"Will there be a list of everybody who decided to do this to us and our park, in case we want to vote them out?"

"This is a family neighborhood."

"How can we feel safe using our park?"

Residents' concerns included the potential for crime, drug use, trash, and disease—all things that the city would directly address in the project. But notable in the exchange between leaders and residents is that the officials weren't asking residents for permission to create the camp; they were simply informing them they were doing it.


City Council Member Tom Schwedhelm, who served as mayor at the time, told the Times that his mindset at the time was, "Go ahead and vote me out. You want to shout at me and get angry? Go ahead. It's important for government to listen, but the reality is these are our neighbors, so let's help them."

County Supervisor James Gore concurred. "We know we're pissing off a lot of people — they're rising up and saying, 'Hell, no!'" he said. "But we can't just keep saying no. That's been the failed housing policy of the last 30 to 40 years. Everybody wants a solution, but they don't want to see that solution in their neighborhoods."

So, the city proceeded. They addressed resident concerns by deploying police officers and security guards on-site for 24/7 patrols. They brought in portable toilets, hand-washing stations, and showers for people sheltering in the tents. They partnered with Catholic Charities to provide meals and to engage camp residents in beautification projects around the neighborhood. (In exchange for picking up trash, camp residents would receive gift cards to stores like Target or Starbucks.)

The residents pretty quickly came around. Families continued to use the park's facilities and began to bring donations such as food, clothing, and hand sanitizer for their neighbors staying in the encampment. A mobile clinic served the camp a few times a week, bringing basic health care and medications as well as screening for COVID-19.

While struggling to deal with unruly, make-shift encampments that inevitably pop up in and around the city, officials decided to try a proactive, purposeful approach in providing safe tent shelters and helpful services for people experiencing homelessness. And the results speak for themselves.

Some who made use of the site found that having access to medical care, sanitation, and meaningful service enabled them to start turning their life around. Some found jobs or got to a place where they could look for a job. Of the 208 people served at the site during its run, 12 were moved into permanent housing and nearly five dozen were placed in shelters while they await housing openings. Homelessness is a complex issue without simple fixes, but having safe shelter and basic services is sometimes enough to restore a person's sense of hope and dignity.

And the Finley Park residents who were originally outraged at the idea? They changed their tune as their fears proved unfounded. There was no violent behavior at the site; all of the police calls during the seven months were in response to additional people trying to utilize the camp when it was already at capacity.

When the city closed the site as originally promised in November, they asked residents for their feedback. Only three or four people called in with commentary, and they only had positive things to say.

Boyd Edwards, who plays pickleball at the Finley Community Center, told the Times, "I was amazed I never saw anything negative at all."

"I thought they were going to be noisy and have crap all over the place," added his friend Joseph Gernhardt. "Now, they can have it all year-round for all I care."

Plans are indeed in the works for similar sites to be established year-round in several neighborhoods, but this time with hardened housing structures. With homelessness an ongoing reality everywhere—but an especially visible issue in high-priced Northern California—governments must explore ways to help people get what they need. Santa Rosa officials took a risk by moving forward with a project that was unpopular with constituents at first, but which proved to be a positive way to address the issue.

As Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg said, according to the Times, "The problem with our approach is that every time we seek to build a project, there is a neighborhood controversy. Our own constituents say, 'Solve it, but please don't solve it here,' and we end up experiencing death by a thousand cuts."

Everyone wants something done about homelessness, but few people want it done in their own backyards. In a bold move, Santa Rosa officials simply rejected that reality and pressed onward despite complaints, in a gamble that pretty clearly paid off for everyone.