In Athens, two young founders provide free mobile laundry services to some of the more than 20,000 Greeks without homes. Meanwhile, in Toronto, an art program helps at-risk Canadian youths learn about photography. These are just some of the creative ways that founders of social enterprises around the world are giving back and tackling a global issue: homelessness.
1. Burning candles to help shelters
Frères Branchiaux is a candle company founded by three brothers—all under the age of 12. The boys started the business to save up money for video games, but middle brother Ryan loves that he’s also able to help others. Frères Branchiaux donates 10 percent of their profits to a local homeless shelter. The cause is close to home for the family. “I had family members who are homeless,” Ryan says. “We took them in and helped them get back on their feet.”
2. Giving the homeless a chance to grow
SucSeed is a Canadian company that builds hydroponic systems, enabling their customers, no matter where they live, to grow fresh produce at home. All of SucSeed’s products are made by at-risk and homeless youth under the guidance of botanists and engineers.
3. Amplifying voices
Curbside Chronicle is an Oklahoma City street publication dedicated to empowering homeless and low-income individuals. Sales of the magazine helped more than 40 people move into affordable housing in 2017. The paper also runs another program called Wrap Up Homelessness, selling artist-designed wrapping paper and donating profits to the cause. “The issue of homelessness is really stigmatized,” says director Ranya O'Connor. “It’s important in everything we do that we know and see the humans behind this issue.”
4. Offering free mobile (laundry) services
Employment options were dismal for Athens-born Thanos Spiliopoulos, so he started a business aimed at helping the city’s homeless. Thanks in part to the Greek debt crisis as well as a steady influx of refugees, there are as many as 20,000 people homeless in Athens. Thanos and his friend Fanis Tsonas fundraised to launch Ithaca Laundry, Greece’s first free mobile laundry service. The company washes about 25 bags of clothes for the homeless each day.
5. Passing the lens
Gilad Cohen is the founder of JAYU, a Toronto-based charity that shares human-rights stories through the arts and dialogue. One of his projects, iAM, pairs homeless and at-risk youth with professional photographers, teaching them to capture photos of their city. The resulting photos, along with accompanying voice recordings, are featured and sold in an exhibit, with all of the profits benefiting underserved youth.
6. Supporting homeless artists
Formerly homeless, David Tovey is the founder of ONE Festival of Homeless Arts, a London-based arts festival that profiles the work of artists, including many who are homeless, in photography, poetry, painting, and the performing arts. He also sells T-shirts through an online store and social-arts project Hopeful Traders. Proceeds from David’s own designs support a charity that helps people who are homeless get back on their feet.
Illustrations by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo