When Lolly Galvin sold her clothing boutiques last year, she set out to raise $500 to perform random acts of kindness around Philadelphia. She ended up meeting a homeless man along Broad Street and asked him if he would like to get lunch with her.
“He said sure and packed up all his stuff right away,” Galvin said. “He did bring up a lot of issues with how hard it is. You can’t just walk into a place without an address and get a job.”
Since the beginning of the year, Galvin has been working on what she calls the Dignity Project. It’s now a nonprofit that focuses on assembling brown paper bags filled with necessities for homeless people: razors, nail clippers, hand warmers in the winter, socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, shampoo, cotton swabs, bandages and tampons.
She’s close to the $10,000 fundraising goal she set to take a Dignity Tour to 12 cities, starting in May. In addition to Philadelphia, the tour would visit Washington, D.C.; New Orleans; Austin; New York City; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Seattle; Portland; Billings, Mont.; Detroit and Flint, Mich.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/payitforwardlive. People can also drop off donated items to The Unforgotten Haven, 1451 New Jersey 38, Hainesport Township.
Galvin has spent time meeting LGBT homeless people. Often they’re young, she said. Galvin recalled one 19-year-old whose parents kicked her out when they found out she had a girlfriend.
“When your entire family says they’d rather see you on the streets than have contact with you, emotionally I’m sure the toll is much different,” Galvin said of homeless LGBT people.
In Philadelphia, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, according to Valley Youth House, an Allentown-based nonprofit that helps young people with stable housing and life skills.
“I hear a lot about the statistics, but actually seeing the people makes a difference,” Galvin said. “People are very open to sharing.”
She added sometimes people ask her why she doesn’t typically take donations to homeless shelters. Galvin said shelters often have a problem with overcrowding, so she wanted to take her volunteering to the streets and help people on a one-on-one basis. With LGBT people, they may not feel comfortable coming out in a homeless shelter, she said.