Beauty in the eyes of the community: Nonprofit focuses on making unhoused people ‘feel inherently beautiful’

Photos by Neezy Jeffery

Beauty 2 The Streetz visits Sacramento to provides local homeless with beauty supplies, essentials 

By Katerina Graziosi

Dusk falls as Shirley Raines sits at the end of the couch in her North Sacramento Airbnb. Wrapped in an oversized leopard hoodie, she swirls an Old-Fashioned in one hand as she pushes up her glasses to rub her eyes with the other. 

She’s tired; she’s served about 800 homeless people this week already. And her work in Sacramento is only just beginning.  

As the founder and driving force behind Beauty 2 The Streetz, a nonprofit organization that provides beauty supplies, hygiene and grooming services, food, clothing, and other essentials to the unhoused people of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego, Raines is gearing up for her first day of service in Sacramento’s homeless community on Feb. 17. 

“My plan was never to expand,” Raines says about working outside of Skid Row, the 50-block stretch that sees thousands of homeless people and encampments converge among shelters, hotels and transitional facilities in downtown Los Angeles. “[This] started just accidentally, trying to find a purpose.” 

The 56-year-old says that she didn’t see any of it coming: Running a nonprofit was not in her plans when she first started working with the homeless people of Skid Row in 2017. 

After the sudden death of her 2-year-old son in 1990, Raines struggled with grief and financial insecurity, becoming homeless for some time. Though she regained housing, it wasn’t until she began volunteering with another Los Angeles nonprofit, and eventually, branched out on her own with Beauty 2 The Streetz, that Raines said she felt her life had purpose. 

“It’s almost like all my pain led to this,” she says. “This is such a big movement and people are so in awe of it, and they all want to know how I got here, but it’s not a pretty story. It’s a lot of pain that pushed me to this. … It really is all those things that led the community to embrace me because they can feel my authenticity, they can see that I’m real and I’m committed.”

Beauty 2 The Streetz founder Shirley Raines delivers food, clothing, makeup and wigs to Sacramento’s unhoused community along North B Street in Sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 17. “Sacramento has shown me nothing but love,” Raines said. Photo by Neezy Jeffery

And it’s Raines’ genuineness that has amassed a legion of supporters who view her clips and live streams of the services she provides to homeless communities. With a combined 6.3 million followers across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Patreon and X, her following funds the entirety of the nonprofit’s work.  

“This is a nickel and dime operation,” Raines says, adding that the most the organization has received at one time was $100,000 for being awarded CNN’s Hero in 2021. “It’s a lot of little [donations from] people … but I have so many followers and they’re all sending me $5-10 that [it starts] adding up.” 

In addition to monetary contributions, product donations from a roster of beauty companies, including Fenty Beauty, Thrive Causemetics and The Honest Company to name a few, as well as in-person donations of essentials from local supporters, ensure that Raines and her team are stocked to make their rounds each week. 

B2TS serves about 750 people weekly between the communities it is already established in, according to Raines, who usually cooks scratch-made meals and treats in bulk with the help of her team to provide the ultimate home comfort. Now, with an abundance of donations filling her SoCal warehouse, she said she would like to add Sacramento as a regular stop in her rotation to share the resources. 

“My goal was just come down here to see how Beauty 2 The Streetz can fit Sacramento realistically in our routine and be a consistent source for them,” Raines says. “Not just someone who pops up and makes a video, makes themselves look good and then goes back home.” 

Raines, who had introduced herself to handfuls of encampments along North B Street and surrounding areas earlier in the day, says she asked permission to return with pizza — a familiar store-bought meal to establish trust — and more the next day, which the community welcomed. 

“We’re not trying to come in and make big waves,” She said. “We’re just trying to come in to support.”

‘Pockets of happiness’ 


Adrian Moreno helps hand out pizza to the people living along North B Street in Sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 17. Photograph by Neezy Jeffery

The next day, Wahleeah Patton, 40, smiles widely as she clutches a pair of false lashes. She turns to the women in a line behind her and bats her eyes exaggeratedly. 

“They’re huge, right?” She muses. “I’m going to look good.” 

Integral to Raines’ approach, she focuses on providing tools of self-expression specifically for unhoused women to feel good about themselves. When she first started her work in Skid Row, the women would comment on her look, complimenting her signature long eyelashes and brightly colored hair. 

Today is no different. Standing in the gloom, Raines cuts a kaleidoscopic figure as she allows the women to select a pair of strip eyelashes or a wig and a bag of newly released Thrive Causemetics makeup. 

Cynthia Kirvin, 56, has been homeless for 15 years. She says she felt grateful for the kind of support Beauty 2 The Streetz provides for women. 

“I love this,” Kirvin says. “Even being out here, sometimes a woman still wants to feel pretty, and it’s hard.”

Still, Raines’ approach hasn’t been without its critics. Some have questioned the array of resources she provides, categorizing makeup as something unnecessary for homeless individuals.

“I always find that odd that people even question that,” Raines says. “They lost their structure, not their desire to be who they are. … People think that when people lose things, they lose the right to things: the right to feel inherently beautiful, the right to be a vegan, the right to not eat certain things. I never understood why when you’re at your worst, the world will strip you bare of what you have left.”

Latrice Mills, 40, and her dog, Tuesday, have been homeless for three years. In addition to the supplies handed out in the hundreds, Mills was able to get a new leash and collar for her dog. 

“We appreciate this lady coming and taking the time,” Mills says, “I was really inspired by her story of being at this for 8 years. Whoever recommended our city and our area, thank you for that.”

Patton says that in addition to the supplies and food, Raines’ positive presence in the community could already be felt.

“She has such a positive spirit and just the love that she’s giving … she’s telling us to love ourselves,” Patton says, adding, “I had fun playing with the makeup and it just made me feel better.” 

Raines says she sees the deeper effect of what a boost in confidence can do for unhoused women, but her initial thinking for providing beauty supplies really was only skin deep.

“What can create happiness?” Raines asks. “Even if it’s just a moment of happiness — is throwing on a little bit of mascara and putting on a new shimmer creating a moment? Pockets of happiness are so important. If you were drowning and you had little pockets of air, wouldn’t that mean the most to you?”

Initially, Raines says they did not plan on having volunteers assist in Saturday’s service but after seeing the many pockets of encampments throughout the city, they decided to put a call out for volunteers, with over 20 people signing up shortly after the announcement.

Adrian Moreno, a 22-year-old remote asset protection analyst, says he learned of the opportunity to volunteer through social media, having followed Beauty 2 The Streetz a couple of months ago. 

“I have family in Las Vegas and have wanted to volunteer down there,” Moreno says, adding that just the night before he saw an announcement that the nonprofit would be in Sacramento. “I submitted my info on the volunteer website and they reached out within maybe 15 minutes.” 

Partnerships with beauty brands have also been instrumental in getting beauty and hygiene supplies in the hundreds and thousands for the unhoused.  

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna recently featured Beauty 2 The Streetz in their Black History Month campaign featuring Black changemakers, and posting Raines’ story to its 12.7 million followers on Instagram

“We have over eight pallets of Fenty X Savage clothing inundating our warehouse right now,” Raines said, adding that she’s so grateful to all of the brands that have donated to homeless communities over the years. 

One of Beauty 2 The Streetz’ biggest donors has been Thrive Causemetics, a beauty company with an aligning ethos that gives back to charity with each purchase of their products. 

Beauty 2 The Streetz served about 200 unhoused Sacramento residents over the weekend. And Raines is already planning her next visit, announcing on social media that B2TS will be back in Sacramento March 8-10.

“Sacramento has shown me nothing but love,” Raines says.

‘A big difference’

(Left to right) Cynthia Kirvin and Latrice Mills, unhoused community members, pose together near The Salvation Army in Sacramento on Saturday, Feb. 17. Photograph by Neezy Jeffery

While Raines’ work has largely taken place in Los Angeles, the county that is home to 1 in 5 homeless people in the U.S., her experience working in other cities allows her to see the patterns that stretch across this issue, no matter the region. 

“You have lovely people,” Raines says about Sacramento’s unhoused community. “Already I can see that you guys need mobility aids, there’s a lot of people in walkers. … There’s a need for self-care and choices.” 

Raines’ videos see her asking the people she serves to choose their treats from a myriad of options. This autonomy, she says, is an important step to her process, inviting participation and acting as a check-in. 

Raines says that the act of taking her time to carefully portion out the donations is exactly what needs to happen on a larger scale, to ensure equitable distribution in a skewed system.

“I don’t believe in lack, I believe in greed,” she says about the housing crisis and the many challenges that come with it, like food insecurity. “There’s no such thing as a shortage of food when you’ve got corporations and companies throwing food in the trash can at the end of every day … because society has these convoluted rules… . And [with] all these things there is no lack. There’s just simply greed and an inability to structure things in a way where we can support each other, to help each other.”

Raines sees grassroots efforts like hers as part of the solution. 

And while funds are crucial to the operation, Raines said that part of what she aims to provide is something money can only help bring about, but never guarantee; with a focus on providing and building human connection, treating all with dignity, empathy and being a consistent figure in the community, she aims to create positive moments in an otherwise difficult reality.  

“I don’t just feed the homeless,” Raines said. “I have relationships. There’s a big difference.” 

This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the James B. McClatchy Foundation. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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