Singer and rapper Lizzo flipped the script during her Dec. 6 acceptance speech at the People’s Choice Awards when instead of walking off with the “The People’s Champion” award — which recognizes people who use their platform to fight social causes — she chose to share the stage with women from around the country who are chasing change alongside her.
Shirley Raines — the founder of Beauty 2 The Streetz, a non-profit organization that seeks to ignite hope in Los Angeles’ unhoused community by providing beauty products and services — was among those activists.
“She makes the human connection with the unhoused people of Los Angeles. And makes them feel loved and love what they see in the mirror,” Lizzo said about Raines at the awards.
On any given Saturday — whether rain or shine — Raines and her team can be found set up in LA’s Skid Row neighborhood, offering free hair washes, coloring, make-up, wigs, and showers.
With the help of donations from friends, family, and public supporters, the team is also able to provide hot, home-cooked meals; tents, sleeping bags, and other necessities to over 400 people weekly.
Raines is on a mission to let the world know that “the lack of a home does not mean a lack of humanity.”
At a time when over half a million people in the U.S. are living in a state of homelessness, and some are even feeling a loss of self-esteem because of it, we sat down with Raines to learn more about her work.
WORD IN BLACK: What inspired you to launch Beauty 2 The Streetz? Why the unique emphasis on beauty?
SR: Beauty 2 The Streetz was formed following the death of my 2-year-old son, Demetrius. His passing broke something in me that led to a downward spiral, eventually bringing me to feeding the homeless at a church function. There, I found a community of broken people just like me. The women noticed my bright hair, make-up, and lashes and began complimenting me. I knew then they needed more than just nourishment through food. And I thought, I can do that — I can bring lashes, wigs, and clothing, and I channeled my grief and pain into what I know best: make-up and hair.
WIB: What year did you begin serving in Los Angeles? And how would you describe your connection to the community you serve?
SR: Beauty 2 The Streetz has been serving the LA homeless population since 2017. This community was the place I’d been searching for, for decades. I felt like I’d found my people and my calling. When Beauty 2 The Streetz provides clothing, food, or a fresh cut, you can see a lift in their spirit. I want to give them hope and the dignity that, as human beings, we all deserve.
WIB: What do you want people to know about homelessness? Are there any stigmas that you seek to shatter through your work?
SR: The biggest stigma many people don’t consider is that there are varying stages of homelessness — all of which deserve our support. We are much closer to homelessness than being incredibly wealthy. Beauty 2 The Streetz seeks to shine a light on the humanity of the unhoused and provide for those commonly overlooked.
WIB: What have you found to be the most rewarding part of your work?
SR: The most rewarding part of my work is the connections I build with those struggling with depression and mental health issues. As someone who still works to overcome my depression and pain, Beauty 2 The Streetz provides a sense of community and purpose. While this work is healing for me, ultimately, helping this community is all about meeting people where they are and making them feel seen, heard, and loved.
WIB: How can people get involved with Beauty 2 The Streetz as volunteers?
SR: There are so many avenues of being involved with Beauty 2 the Streetz. We need donations of items to continue providing resources to Los Angeles County. Some ways to help are by offering to volunteer, providing financial support, and shopping our Amazon wish list, which you can do at Beauty2thestreetz.org.
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