As she acquired her award Sunday, Raines thanked her youngsters together with her late son, who impressed her work.
“This surely hasn’t been easy. I stand before you a very broken woman,” an emotional Raines stated. “I am a mother without a son and there are a lot of people in the streets without a mother — and I feel like it’s a fair exchange.”
Every week, Raines and her workforce of volunteers arrange store and rework half of Skid Row — house to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of homeless individuals — into an outside beauty salon.
Her purpose: to make the homeless really feel human, whether or not which means a haircut, a facial, a hearty meal or a hug.
“It’s not so much just giving them makeup or doing their hair, it’s also the physical touch,” Raines stated. “People need physical touch. That’s what was hard when the pandemic hit. We had to stop doing hair, we had to stop doing barber services. And that might be the nicest touch they’ve had all day.”
As the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year, Raines will obtain $100,000 to increase her work. She and the different prime 10 CNN Heroes honored at Sunday’s gala all obtain a $10,000 money award.
Raines struggled for years with monetary insecurity, grief and loss after the demise of her younger son, Demetrius.
“The world looked at me and thought probably the same thing they think about the homeless when they pass them by,” she stated. “You never know what anyone’s going through, you know?”
Raines’ twin sister urged her to discover a goal for her ache. That goal got here in 2017 when Raines joined a church group on a feeding mission.
“I went to Skid Row, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is where all the broken people are? Oh, I’ve been looking for y’all all my life,” she stated. “I never wanted to leave. It’s a place where people have amazing hearts, but nobody can see it because they can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Initially, Beauty 2 the Streetz was small, with simply Raines and her youngsters serving to to hand out meals, drinks, hygiene kits and beauty merchandise. Raines alone would shade individuals’s hair and do their make-up.
But then she began livestreaming the occasions and posting photos to Instagram, and Beauty 2 the Streetz quickly grew to become extra well-known.
Licensed hair stylists, barbers, make-up artists and even huge make-up firms reached out to Raines saying they wished to assist.
By 2019, Raines had registered Beauty 2 the Streetz as an official non-profit with about two dozen volunteers generously providing their time and efforts to assist Skid Row’s residents really feel stunning.
As Raines’ efforts advanced right into a full-scale operation, with music taking part in and traces forming round the block, she started offering extra provides and necessities: rape whistles, tents, sleeping baggage, hygiene gadgets — and she teamed up with native well being officers to provide extra providers.
Before the pandemic, Raines was making 400 meals every week in her one-bedroom condo kitchen in Long Beach and driving thrice every week to Downtown Los Angeles to feed and carry provides to individuals.
Then, as Covid-19 affected many organizations’ efforts, providers dried up. But Raines pivoted, choosing bagged lunches and a tweaked schedule — and she saved going.
In tandem with the well being division, which offered masks, sanitizer and different private safety gadgets, Raines stated her group and different L.A. County non-profits and group tasks labored tirelessly to serve the unseen.
“We just had to use our best judgment and figure out some ways to still keep them fed, while keeping them safe, and while keeping us safe,” Raines stated.
Today, as vaccination charges are on the rise and a way of normality is returning, Raines is providing assist by means of meals and provides twice every week and increasing partnerships with native teams to let this often-overlooked inhabitants know there is hope.
“My sun didn’t come out for 30 years. It was 30 years’ worth of tomorrows before I even saw the break of day. I would be lying if I said I was always completely happy from doing this. It didn’t take away the pain of my son dying. But I’ve certainly gotten better. I can say his name now. He is the reason I do what I do.”