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Shirley Raines, who brings beauty and hope to Skid Row, is CNN’s Hero of the Year

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CNN

Shirley Raineswho brings beauty and hope to the men and women who live on Los Angeles’ Skid Row is the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year.

As she received her award on Sunday, Raines thanked her children, including her late son, who inspired her work.

“It certainly wasn’t easy. I stand before you as a very broken woman,” said an emotional Raines. “I’m a mother without a son and there are a lot of people without a mother on the street – and I feel like it’s a fair exchange.”

Raines was honored with the CNN Hero of the Year award by hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa on Sunday night. Online voters chose her this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes finalists.

Raines and her nonprofit organization Beauty 2 the Streetz have been a mainstay on Skid Row for the past six years, providing food, clothing, and hair and makeup services to thousands of people.

Each week, Raines and her team of volunteers build a business and transform part of Skid Row — home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of homeless people — into an outdoor beauty salon.

Their goal: to make the homeless feel human, whether it’s through a haircut, a facial, a hearty meal, or a hug.

“It’s not just about doing their makeup or doing their hair, it’s also about the physical touch,” Raines said. “People need physical closeness. That was hard when the pandemic hit. We had to stop doing hair, we had to stop doing barber services. And that might be the kindest touch they’ve had all day.”

As a 2021 CNN Hero of the Year, Raines will receive $100,000 to expand her work. She and the other top 10 CNN heroes honored at Sunday’s gala will each receive a cash prize of $10,000.

Raines struggled for years with financial insecurity, grief and loss following the death of her young son Demetrius.

“The world looked at me and probably thought the same thing they think about the homeless when they walk past them,” she said. “You never know what someone goes through, you know?”

Raines’ twin sister urged her to find meaning in her pain. That purpose came in 2017 when Raines joined a church group on a feeding mission.

“I went to Skid Row and I was like, ‘Oh, this is where all the broken people are? Oh, I’ve been looking for you all my life,” she said. “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 only Raines and her children helping to distribute food, drinks, hygiene kits and beauty products. Raines alone would dye people’s hair and do their makeup.

But then she started live streaming the events and posting pictures on Instagram, and Beauty 2 the Streetz soon became more popular.

Licensed barbers, barbers, makeup artists, and even major makeup companies have reached out to Raines and said they wanted to help.

By 2019, Raines Beauty 2 had registered the Streetz as an official non-profit organization, with about two dozen volunteers who generously donated their time and effort to help Skid Row residents feel beautiful.

As Raines’ efforts grew into a full-scale operation, with music playing and lines forming around the block, she began gathering more supplies and essentials: rape whistles, tents, sleeping bags, toiletries — and she teamed up with local health officials offer more services together.

Before the pandemic, Raines prepared 400 meals a week in her one-bedroom kitchen in Long Beach and drove to downtown Los Angeles three times a week to feed people and bring supplies.

Then, as Covid-19 impacted the efforts of many organizations, services dried up. But Raines turned around and opted for packed lunches and an adjusted schedule – and she moved on.

Along with the health department, which provided masks, sanitizer and other personal protective items, Raines said her group and other LA County nonprofit and community projects have worked tirelessly to serve the unseen.

“We just had to use our best judgment and find ways to still feed them, protect them, and protect ourselves at the same time,” Raines said.

Today, as immunization rates are rising and a sense of normality is returning, Raines is offering help in the form of food and supplies twice a week and is expanding partnerships with local groups to let this often-overlooked population know there is hope.

“My sun didn’t come out for 30 years. It was a 30 year morning before I even saw daybreak. I’d be lying if I said I’ve always been super happy doing this. It didn’t take away the pain of my dying son. But I’ve definitely gotten better. I can say his name now. He’s the reason I do what I do.”

If you know someone who is making the world a better place, you can nominate them for a 2022 CNN Hero under CNNHeroes.com. If you would like to support the work of Raines or one of the charities of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes, you can also donate via CNNHeroes.com. All donations made through January 3rd will be matched by Subaru with up to $50,000 per hero.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/12/us/shirley-raines-2021-cnn-hero-of-the-year/index.html Shirley Raines, who brings beauty and hope to Skid Row, is CNN’s Hero of the Year

Charles Jones

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