Where is the line between a small act of kindness or opportunism?
It is probably best understood by whether the act is more for the giver or the receiver. So, it’s healthy for a social impact community to react with some pause when a new entrant to the tricky world of homelessness services starts a fresh outreach project.
Lolly Galvin (she goes by @realhumanist) launched her Dignity Project earlier this year by eating lunch with a person experiencing homelessness — something that happens hundreds of times a day within Philadelphia’s robust social services network. Fearful of the millennial hype machine, we’ve heard a concern or two from experienced social services professionals that some efforts like these lack substance and depth, that they often fade away too soon to be worth the attention they receive.
How many arguably naïve, if well-intentioned, projects does it take to get a Philly Restart? Adam Bruckner‘s nonprofit is widely regarded by those in the know for having gone from a guy standing on a corner writing checks to becoming a cornerstone of city services. For Galvin, it’s early, but the Dignity Project is evolving.
Last month, Galvin began enlisting local stylists to offer makeovers for people experiencing homelessness. The initiative is called #phillystreetcuts.
Take a look at some of the work done by stylists, who have volunteered their time to make a difference in the way homeless individuals perceive themselves. You’ll see that line: Are these small acts of decency to help our neighbors feel better about themselves or a viral Instagram campaign?
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Other groups have done this kind of work, offering free haircuts at shelters and in salons here and elsewhere, including on streets like this campaign. There’s no question finding ways to offer services to vulnerable citizens is meaningful, and few will doubt the subtle importance of a fresh cut. But a program’s true meaning comes over time and in its understanding of how it fits into the web of services that thousands of people devote their professional lives to.
It’s not the first actionable initiative out of Dignity Project — Galvin distributed “Dignity Bags” filled with toiletries over the cold season, backed by a GoFundMe) but #phillystreetcuts is an interesting step. Will it last? For the sake of our most vulnerable citizens, we hope so.-30-
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