Amid a contentious debate over the direction Los Angeles takes in addressing homelessness in the city, Shirley Raines takes the side of the people at the center of the issue.
For the past six years, Raines has been taking one day out of every week to drive down from her home in Long Beach to Skid Row with a van full of food and beauty supplies, ready to serve people on a sidewalk along the city’s corridor known for having the largest containment of unhoused people in the United States.
“It’s giving people a sense of purpose and something to feel good about themselves about,” said Raines, founder and owner of Beauty 2 the Streetz, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless people look good and feel even better.
Every week, she leads a team of volunteers — including licensed hairstylists, barbers, makeup artists and others — to Skid Row and they turn it into an outdoor hair salon and barbeque event.
For Raines, caring for people experiencing homelessness in Skid Row has helped her heal a traumatic pain that stems from three decades ago, when she lost her young son in an accident.
“I was trying to make sense of my pain, or find a purpose for my pain. I didn’t know what direction I was leading in and someone suggested I help feed the homeless with them,” she said. “Then I came out here and felt the instant connection with the homeless — all the brokenness, all the hurt, all the pain, all the trauma … I felt like I’m me in them.”
Raines said that the connection she found by sharing her stories and listing to others’ stories is what inspired her to keep coming back and helping.
“That’s what led me to stay out here, but they were more interested in my hair and my makeup versus the food I was trying to give them, so I was like I could give them some lashes … and then it just turned and morphed into it’s own thing,” she said.
While Raines is very much aware that her services serve as only a bandaid to help those living on Skid Row, she hopes Beauty 2 the Streetz can expand to help address other areas of people’s lives that help them feel whole and heal.
For now, Beauty 2 the Streetz has put a pause in taking in new applicants for volunteers, but those wishing to help can do so by sending in items needed from the nonprofit’s Amazon wishlist, dropping off clothing, food or hygiene supplies at a designated location or following her social media accounts for events on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram.
More information can be found at https://www.beauty2thestreetz.org/.