After meeting scores and scores of people experiencing homelessness, she stood out. The first thing the two young men noticed was how young she was, only her in early 20s—like them. The young men were getting to know people who were homeless in Harrisburg, a city about two hours from the City of Brotherly Love and the state capital. They wanted to know what their homeless neighbors thought of their new business model, and in her they saw a true peer. It fully dawned on them that anyone could experience homelessness. Anyone—society could even throw out young women, who should be enjoying sororities and the ideals of college life, on the streets.
She told them how she ended up in her current condition. Since she was a little girl, she had never had a stable home, moving from abusive relationship to abusive relationship. It was all she knew. And when she was a little girl, overwhelmed with pain, she decided to make her way to jail, the one place she believed she could find constancy, for jail does not kick people out. Jail swallows people up and grasps them between barred teeth.
But surprisingly, it was in jail that she met a woman who told her something that had never been told to her before—that she was a worthy individual. So this young woman sought help through Bethesda Mission (one of KNO’s partners) and began working toward building a better life for herself, one that she could enjoy in the great many years ahead of her.
This young lady’s story reminded the two young men that many times, it is usually those who are already victims that suffer the hardship of homelessness.
But what of the stories of these young men?
Just out of college, Steve had moved to Philadelphia to make it on his own, but he grew shocked at the number of men and woman sitting on street corners and sleeping in the shadows, overlooked. He walked pass them every day, until they became familiar faces in a new and unfamiliar city. They were his neighbors, just like the housed individuals who lived beside him, above and below him.
Steve always had an interest in clothing design, but he knew the fashion world to have a reputation for heartlessness. He wanted to do something to help the desperate people he saw every day, so Steve searched for a way to fuse his aspirations in design with his desire to get his neighbors out of the cold and into a warm home. He felt that when you see people who need your help persistently, every single day, how could you not do something to lend them a hand?
As for the other young man, Philadelphia was perhaps even more unfamiliar. Anthony had been born and raised in India and had moved to over 10 other countries throughout his youth. He had seen all kinds of people in all sorts of living conditions. He acknowledged his initial discomfort upon witnessing some of these people in desperate conditions. Sometimes he would feel guilt and give them some money, and other times, he would just walk away. But like each of us, he knew he could do more. But unlike most of us, he decided to act on this instinct. When he encountered another human being, whoever they were and whatever they were experiencing, he chose to focus on the person inside, rather than what he saw before him. This led him to develop a more concrete solution, more suited to preserving the dignity of the individual, rather than calling attention to their desperation.
When Anthony met Steve, they decided to team up to end homelessness, co-founding KNO Clothing. They knew they couldn’t help every single person they met along the way, but that their efforts could help change some lives. When they met the young lady from above and her peers, they took their stories to heart and decided to create a business model based on the idea that “we should all so something to encourage those who might be hurting in our communities, because everyone deserves hope and love.”
About the author: Drisana is the KNO Communciations Associate for Summer 2012. She studies Literature at Yale University.