On the living-room wall of art collector Eileen Lorraine’s home hangs a large work on cardboard that reads, “Honest to God just truly hungry. Anything helps. God bless you all.”
It’s profound and simple, words we’ve seen at intersections throughout the Valley where people are panhandling to get a meal, or whatever it is they’re hungry for. But in a comfortable suburban home, the words resonate fully, a reminder in mint-green letters of the social problems we live with even when we’re living well, as if to say: Somewhere, someone is wondering about the next meal.
Lorraine paid $20 for the sign, one of several she’s purchased over the past few years to connect with people she passes every day. And the signs represent a community she works with as a volunteer yoga instructor at the Help of Southern Nevada Shannon West Homeless Youth Shelter.
She bought the first in Primm, from a young guy whose sign said he was broke and trying to get home. Another sign reads, “Happiness is a cheese burger. Drive safe. Love life.” She found a sign Downtown that read, “Neighbor ran off with wife. Need help to buy Thank you!!! card!!” Her living-room sign was purchased at the corner of Lake Mead and Rainbow.
“Some people who work with the homeless might say that’s not the best way to spend money on them,” she says, listing other ways to give and adding that the Shannon West Homeless Youth Shelter recently launched a fundraising campaign on gofundme, which states that $57 will house, feed and support a resident for a day. “Twenty dollars will be stretched further through an organization, but it’s a personal experience and a human interaction.”
It’s also nothing new. Homeless signs have become part of pop culture, curated on websites for their cleverness and creativity. Artist Willie Baronet of Texas spent $7,000 over two decades, buying signs and mounting awareness-raising exhibits and panel discussions. Artists and other groups have redesigned signs from people in need to have a greater impact and Lorraine remembers a local business that bought faux signs from someone selling them on Venice Beach.
For Lorraine, they’re original works used by someone to get by, messages in cardboard and marker that separate themselves from the digital society we live in and remind us that everywhere, someone at this moment is on the streets.