Homelessness is a massive problem in the United States, especially in areas like Los Angeles and New York where economic prosperity has made the cost of living simply too high for many people. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Homeless Assessment Report states that as of 2018, there were around 553,000 homeless people in the United States on a given night.
And once a person is homeless, it can be a vicious circle to escape. Many places of employment require workers to have a fixed address, and to maintain a level of personal hygiene that can prove difficult to achieve on the streets.
But thankfully, there are people trying to break that cycle.
Shirley Raines, founder of the Beauty 2 The Streetz charity, offers makeover, shower, and hair coloring services to the homeless women of Los Angeles.
While Raines has always done her part to help the homeless, she started offering the makeovers after the women she was helping expressed interest in her brightly-colored hair.
Raines explained to Insider: "I started serving the homeless of Skid Row with another organization, and as we passed out food, the women were more interested in my hair color and my makeup, and they used to compliment me going, 'Oh, my God, we love your makeup,' or 'We love your hair color,' or 'You smell so good.'"
"And after a couple months, it hit me that, 'Wow, women are still interested in these things,' and I realized that at their core, they're still women."
Raines explained how something as simple as a makeover can transform someone's prospects: "I think that makeup and hair and showers builds self-esteem, and I think like anyone, when your self-esteem is high, you feel like you can do anything, and getting off the streets has to be one of the hardest things that they are going to face in their life or encounter in their life."
"So feeling good is the first step to healing. So I think makeup, hair, showers, just conversation, friendship, and food, anything that makes you feel good is the first step of healing."
Raines went on to add: "The men and women of Skid Row are not just all drug addicts and alcoholics. These are actually people who fell on hard times. They lost their job. They had an illness that they couldn't keep up with their bills, so they lost their housing. They planned on sleeping in their car until their car was repossessed. I have vets on the street."
"I take care of a woman that has a Ph.D. I think that we have to break the stereotypes of what homelessness is, and not all the people that are homeless are without jobs. They just are without a home."
She went on to explain why she does what she does: "I love what I do because I know how it feels to be down. I know how it feels to be alone. I know how it feels to have no self-esteem."
"I know how it is to desire and want things as a woman that you can't obtain for yourself because you don't have the funding. You just can't obtain it for yourself. So it's important for me to give back because I once was that person, and I know how it changed my life."
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