Homeless but Classy

Boston artist Kenji Kayayama has started creating high-quality, hand painted signs to replace makeshift cardboard posters typically used by homeless people.  Their original art is used and they are given an opportunity to tell their story.   It seems many of the homeless are trying to find their voice as much as they are trying to solicit for money.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan you imagine the frustration in being homeless?  Not only is there the need to find food OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand a place to sleep but it often is the ultimate in feeling like a failure.

What do you think is the most helpful thing you can do for the homeless in your city – or on the other side of the world?  What are you doing now? Do you see it as a critical problem or just accept it as part of the choices people make?

(The artwork in this shot was done by Carl Frisso from Norway! Please check out more of his work at Behance.net.)

And here’s another question that came up when discussing this with Joanne.  Do you think having nice signs helps or hurts the homeless? Are passersby more likely to give – or are they more likely to think that if the person has a nice sign they probably have the ability to get out and get a job?

Share your ideas here.  (As a thank-you here’s a link to the Wisdom Meets Passion Quotations for Living – a beautiful compilation from Wisdom Meets Passion put together by my son-in-law Nathan – Ashley’s husband)


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  • Andrea

    I left a substantial comment yesterday but it disappeared. Thank you for the inspirational quotes, though.

    • 48DaysDan

      Andrea – not sure what would have happened. Can you recreate it?

  • Jill Davis

    What an amazing idea. I love that they are given the opportunity to share their story.
    My own son spent sometime homeless and it was so impactful to me to realize that every homeless person had people who in some way cared about them, to be reminded of the humanity of the homeless people not just thinking of them as “those kind of people.” I think that one of the most helpful things I can do for the homeless in my city is to recognize their humanity and not just pass them by in a moment of facelessness.
    I think the signs help simply because they bring attention to the realness of the person holding the sign. I work hard no matter if it’s a panhandler or a homeless person sitting on a bench, to acknowledge them as a person by looking in their eyes and smiling, with a kind word.

    • 48DaysDan

      Jill – thanks for your thoughtful input. Yes, I’m sure each of these people has an interesting story. A couple years ago we had a homeless guy as Santa Claus at an event. He was great – pretty much just came as he was. He was a delightful guy who just chose not to have a permanent home.

  • Jason Garey

    Dan, thanks for sharing this. It would be interesting to get these folks’ feedback after a week to see how the signs are affecting others. I agree with Jill. A homeless man once told me that the hardest thing about being on the street is when people avoid looking at them as if they don’t exist. I realize that many times people don’t look at them because they might feel guilty if they don’t give them money. But they don’t realize that a smile or even acknowledging them could make that person’s day, regardless of how or why they are on the street. It might even give them the last bit of confidence they need to change their circumstances, if they so desire.

    • Jill Davis

      Jason, I try to always say something to them when anyone speaks to me. Whether it is the homeless person or the lady next to me at the check out stand. I believe it is so important to recognize the humanity of other. Thank you for confirming my belief.

  • adam garey

    A Good Thing! The Sign could have a statement for Holder and Viewer. Holder-I can do it! People care about me. I am homeless not hopeless or aimless.There is some profit for my life somewhere. Viewer-This person is working with what he has!

  • Debbie Wilson

    My first response was the quality of the sign says this guy has invested in becoming a permanent beggar. But the look on his face with the new sign made me want to look at him and smile. The combination made the difference. Wow, our expressions, even in this, communicate so much.

  • I used to play guitar for fun on the sidewalk in a downtown area during college and would often have homeless people talk with me. For many of them, I think there’s a desire to be listened to and have someone acknowledge them as a person. Sometimes their living situation is by choice, sometimes it’s not but almost all of them desire dignity on some level. I would listen to them and occasionally pray with them as a way to meet them where they were at.