Extra Than Likes is a collection about social media personalities who’re attempting to do optimistic issues for his or her communities.
To Shirley Raines, they’re royalty: The lady with the paralyzed arm who makes use of a shoelace as a sling. The person whose palms shake as he opens his bag. The little lady who, when seeing Ms. Raines and her brilliant coif, shouts “pink hair!”
Ms. Raines, 55, gives meals, hygienic companies and unconditional help to folks and not using a house by her nonprofit in Los Angeles, Beauty 2 the Streetz. They’re all “kings” and “queens.”
That is how she sees the folks she serves: royals who’ve been dealt a nasty hand.
‘It’s develop into just a little web household’
Ms. Raines needs to unfold that outlook — and has harnessed social media to take action. A digital camera hangs within the truck the place she passes out meals, capturing moments which can be uploaded to her TikTok and Instagram accounts (5.3 million and 373,000 followers) that she hopes are altering the narrative on homelessness. It’s also a fund-raising machine for an operation that runs completely on donations, Ms. Raines stated.
“Individuals have grown to like a few of the folks that we help and care for,” Ms. Raines stated. “It’s develop into just a little web household.”
Magnificence 2 the Streetz turned a registered nonprofit in 2019. Sydney Granados, the group’s government coordinator, estimates that it feeds about 1,000 folks every week, totally on Skid Row, an space of Downtown Los Angeles. Some days, Ms. Raines brings McDonald’s burgers. Different days it’s pizza from Costco. Generally a chef in a meals truck cooks enchiladas, rooster tortilla soup or vegan cauliflower steaks. Ms. Raines and her volunteers additionally hand out toiletries — toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo — and so they even coloration hair.
“Homelessness is a type of very visible issues,” stated Ben Henwood, director of the Heart for Homelessness, Housing and Well being Fairness Analysis on the College of Southern California. “We see it all over, however really seeing folks for who they’re, the humanity half, we regularly miss. These sorts of efforts that enable folks to attach at a really particular person stage and be seen, I believe, are massively vital for vanity.”
Wherever she goes, Ms. Raines lifts moods, with some banter and lightweight teasing. In March, when a person she calls Large T confirmed up carrying a too-tight jacket, Ms. Raines joked that he was going to “squeeze out like a biscuit.” She’s usually seen carrying fluffy yellow sandals and lengthy rainbow socks, and has realized American Signal Language to speak with the deaf “kings and queens.”
“She’s very magnetic,” Ms. Granados stated. “She’s pleasing, humorous, brilliant — folks like to be round her.”
In 2021, Ms. Raines was named CNN’s Hero of the Year, incomes a $100,000 grant for her group. The Magnificence 2 the Streetz Patreon page pulls in about $6,000 every month, and the group additionally solicits donations on Venmo and Money App. In current months, these donations have allowed her to broaden to San Diego, Las Vegas and Lengthy Seashore, Calif.
‘My journey began with ache’
Ms. Raines’s path to creating Magnificence 2 the Streetz began in 1990, when she herself was and not using a house. Her son Demetrius J. Stephens Jr. spent numerous time at her grandmother’s house, in Compton, Calif. When Demetrius was 2 years previous, she stated, he by accident swallowed an antipsychotic capsule meant for one in all her uncles and ultimately died because of this. Ms. Raines was 23.
Ms. Raines “turned a terror to this world,” she stated. “My journey began with ache, dying, feeling like, ‘why am I alive?’”
She had extra youngsters, moved into an house in Inglewood, Calif., with the assistance of a housing voucher, and acquired her first job as an grownup working as a 411 operator. She started bodybuilding and have become a health teacher earlier than transitioning right into a profession as a medical biller.
Nonetheless, Ms. Raines stated, suicidal ideas shadowed her. “I endured numerous freaking ache that individuals don’t see,” she stated. “That’s what drives this caboose.”
After a heart-to-heart dialog in 2017 together with her twin sister, who implored her to search out better emotional stability, Ms. Raines accompanied a good friend to volunteer for Pauly’s Project, a nonprofit serving homeless folks in Los Angeles. She developed a rapport with a few of the ladies she met, who stored complimenting her hair and make-up. So in the future, Ms. Raines returned to a Pauly’s Challenge occasion with magnificence merchandise from Sephora and a bucket of sizzling water. Ms. Raines dyed the ladies’s hair and handed out make-up kits.
She ultimately attracted a following so massive that she went out on her personal. She set herself up on Skid Row with a small group of volunteers, administering what she calls “religious C.P.R.”
“All people needs to really feel clear,” Ms. Raines stated. “All people needs to be ok with themselves. I’ve a queen proper now, we did her hair purple a pair weeks in the past. I’ve by no means seen her smile so huge. Her hair, all of the purple has washed out, however her smile continues to be the identical, due to the lasting results of all of the reward she acquired when her hair was coloured. These issues don’t wash off.”
A part of the enchantment of her social media movies is the recurring forged of characters her followers have come to know — and Ms. Raines’s relationship with them. One girl, who had been pregnant in a earlier video, just lately confirmed as much as the truck together with her new child.
“She had the newborn!” Ms. Raines screamed ecstatically, turning to the digital camera. “She had the newborn!”
The trouble, although, hasn’t been straightforward and has taken a toll. Her rising superstar has been significantly powerful on her youngsters, she stated. “Once they have been rising up, I used to be a lady with a brief mood, partying, by no means had cash for them to do something,” she stated. “The world is looking me an angel, and so they don’t see me as an angel.”
Ms. Raines thinks usually of the son she buried. She is especially moved by the youngsters she serves who come to her with out mother and father.
“I believe they assist me as a lot as I assist them.”