In a world where beauty influencers make millions by promoting makeup products and performing glitzy makeovers, Shirley Raines is an unlikely star.
Every Saturday morning, Raines makes her way to LA’s Skid Row - a neighborhood notorious for having one of highest concentrations of homeless people in the country - and works to help turn their lives around. Along with her team of licensed hair stylists, barbers, and makeup artists, she transforms lives. It’s not just the hundreds of makeovers, glam-overs, and haircuts she offers for free.
It’s the dignity that she offers along with it.
Raines started her non-profit Beauty 2 The Streetz three years ago, an organization dedicated to making those who are homeless look good and feel even better. Her mission stems from a personal belief that "just because they live on the street doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do to help them not appear as they live on the street.
“It’s their right to be beautiful."
Her inspiration came from volunteering at a soup kitchen, where she observed the importance of basic needs like food, water, and shelter for the homeless, but also the impact a haircut, new hair color, and makeup can have on their overall well-being. Many of the homeless people on Skid Row are employed, but still find themselves without a permanent roof over their heads. A simple makeover can help them feel more confident and presentable for their jobs, or for their partners and children.
Friendship Brings Beauty and Hope to Skid Row
For those living on Skid Row, Shirley Raines is more than just a stylist - she's a friend and a source of comfort. During makeovers, individuals from the homeless community often open up to her and share their life stories. In return, the work has helped Raines heal from her own heartache - the loss of her 3-year-old son in an accident many years ago. But it was a combination of her twin sister's wise words to "find purpose in the pain" and a friend's suggestion to volunteer at a soup kitchen that led her to Skid Row and her calling.
Beauty 2 The Streetz was initially a small operation, with Raines and her five children handing out food, drinks, hygiene kits, and beauty products. But the positive response to her efforts led to more and more volunteers joining the cause, and by 2019, Raines had registered Beauty 2 The Streetz as an official non-profit with about two dozen volunteers generously offering their time and skills. Raines left her job as a medical biller last year to run the organization full-time.
Cherish Benham, one of Raines's clients, was homeless on and off for around four years. Benham was ready for a fresh start, but what she really needed was a boost of confidence - and that's exactly what Raines provided. With a stunning makeover, Benham felt like a completely transformed woman, ready to walk with her head held high. If you’ve ever had a complete makeover, you know it can bring an unmatched feeling of empowerment. She credits Raines' kindness and empathy for helping her overcome the difficult experiences of homelessness and giving her a newfound sense of self-assurance
Pushing through COVID-19
In late March of 2020, California implemented a stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Raines and her team at Beauty 2 The Streetz, a non-profit organization, followed this order and temporarily stopped visiting Skid Row. However, the absence of Raines and her volunteers was felt by the homeless community who relied on them for support.
Raines began receiving messages from homeless individuals via her Instagram, expressing their hunger and loneliness. This realization led Raines to understand that the relationship she had built with this community was too important to neglect, even during a pandemic. The homeless population, living in close quarters with limited access to hygiene resources, were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
In response, Raines shifted her focus to providing food, hygiene products, and protection to this community. The non-profit began distributing essential supplies every weekend, taking care to follow social distancing guidelines and wearing masks. Raines and her team distributed hundreds of burgers from McDonald's, as well as kits containing hand sanitizer, bottled water, socks, masks, and vitamin C-rich fruits. Despite this, the demand for hair and makeup products remained. To meet this demand, Beauty 2 The Streetz has started to slowly distribute wigs, makeup, combs, and brushes.
With California Gov. Gavin Newsom allowing hair salons and barbershops to perform services outside, Raines was able to restart haircuts and makeovers, giving her clients the confidence boost they need. She sees the COVID-19 pandemic as a stark reminder that homelessness can strike anyone, at any time.
In honor of her work, selflessness, and dedication towards helping others, Shirley Raines is an honorary Goodable Hero.