Real-Life Saint Shirley Raines Offers Dignity, Beauty To Skid Row's Homeless Community
[July 5, 2021: Breanna Edwards]
Shirley Raines has been offering the homeless community of Skid Row a helping hand, dignity, and beauty services for the past three years, through her nonprofit Beauty 2 The Streetz.
The Long Beach native got her start by feeding houseless people with a different nonprofit after going through the pain of losing her child.
It wasn’t long until she realized that the women, in particular, were interested in hair and makeup, and she decided to lend a helping hand there.
“Of course makeup is not going to take them off the streets, but it’s going to make them feel better… its a small escape from this terrible reality they’re living in,” Raines told the news station. “They look in the mirror and see something other than homelessness. It just brings them back to who they were.”
“Monday through Friday, someone is saying ‘get out of the way, you bum,’ ‘no, you can’t have this, you bum,’ ‘you’re a nuisance.’ On Saturday, someone is saying, ‘you’re important. You’re special,'” Raines said, explaining what drives her.
“The reality of Skid Row is that it took a long time…to earn that trust. I’m asking someone to close their eyes, lay their head back and be vulnerable,” she added. “It took years of coming back every single Saturday.”
Raines travels from Long Beach to Skid Row every weekend to offer her services. She takes the time to cook for 400-600 people every week in her one-bedroom apartment, all while working a full-time job and being a mother of six.
Before the Covid-19 health and economic crisis, the nation's homeless population was already on the rise.
Now, more than a year after the last official population count, many of those working with homeless communities believe numbers are much higher.
"I would estimate we've got about 8,000 people who are sleeping out on the streets or in some of the shelters," said Shirley Raines. By the last official count in early 2020, more than 4,500 individuals resided in the roughly 50-block area.
"There are more women on the street than before," Raines said, noting that a women's shelter had closed down amid the pandemic. "The resources had dried up."
Existing data does not reflect the devastating impact of the pandemic. But if Raines's estimate is accurate, that's a Skid Row surge of more than 40 percent since Covid-19 hit.
Raines noted that her deep connection to serving the people on Skid Row comes from her own hardships, and almost being homeless herself.
“I’m a woman who actually lived this life in the streets, buried a child, went through traumatic relationships, was almost homeless myself, picked myself up, been working in the medical field for 26 years. I’m still very much ghetto, but I survived that,” Raines said. “I’m able to say, ‘I get it. I understand. But you’ve got to just get through it.'”
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