Shirley Raines

Illustration by Matt Chessco

    When Shirley Raines started her nonprofit Beauty 2 the Streetz in 2017, she had a specific mission in mind: bringing beauty, food, and human connection to Los Angeles’ most deplorably ignored communities. Between 2,000 and 11,000 unhoused people live within the 50-block radius of L.A.’s Skid Row, an area with a long, dark history of inhumane conditions, substance abuse, overpolicing, mental illness, and extreme poverty. Most people avoid Skid Row out of fear, but Raines isn’t like most people. Every week the Compton native and her team of volunteers go there to provide the homeless with beauty care, food, showers, and other supplies. Over the past year, they’ve also expanded their efforts to include COVID testing and vaccination sites. Through something as simple as a haircut, shampoo, or face mask, Raines aims to give those living in brutally uninhabitable conditions a self-esteem boost. While Beauty 2 the Streets started as a one-woman, self-funded operation spurred by grief over the death of her son, Raines has since utilized social media to turn it into a veritable movement, leveraging her 2.8 million followers on TikTok and 241,000 Instagram followers to bring in thousands of dollars in donations. While a haircut or some makeup may seem insignificant, Raines knows that it can mean everything to someone living on the street. “When you peel back the layers, you see what the issues are. And the issues can somewhat be resolved once they feel good about themselves again, just be believing in themselves again,” she told Paper magazine in August. But it’s more than that—it’s sitting with people, showing them care, and listening to their stories. That’s one of the reasons why Raines’s work is so impactful: It serves as a reminder to see humanity in everyone.