The Smiley Photo Company

by williamldennis

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be homeless. I also don’t have a great understanding of all the various reasons people end up homeless. I’d imagine top reasons include disability (mental or physical), old age, substance abuse, and unemployment.

When considering solutions or improvements to homelessness in cities, I find it hard to even consider a solution as the problem seems so varied and complex. Are we actually trying to help the homeless themselves? Or are we simply concerned with the way they affect our public environment?

Once again, it’s a complex set of problems, both social and economic, that I don’t claim to have a solution to.

Though I do have an idea for a project. The goal would be to make the lives of the homeless just a tiny bit better while bringing awareness and education to people like you and me.

It’s a pretty simple concept.

  1. Take $100 cash in $5 bills
  2. Give 20 homeless one $5 bill each
  3. Take a smiling portrait of them (by a great photographer)
  4. Write down their name, how they ended up homeless, and what would make their life a little easier moving forward.
  5. Put the 20 photos and their info online where people can buy prints for ~$10 each.
  6. All proceeds go to giving out more $5 bills and taking more photos. There’s potential to make it a for-profit business as well.
  7. Repeat.

It would be a very simple way to educate people as to the many ways folks end up homeless and how they’re lives could be improved, if just a little.

We can get respected photographers around the country to donate some of their time and take some great portraits, the sales of the prints could do quite well. Photographers get interesting subjects for portraits and gain exposure by being featured on the project’s website. Artists are great at creating value out of nothing — lets leverage that.

If we treat the homeless as the smiling faces they can be then maybe that’s what we will start to see them as — people who are just a bit down on their luck in one way or another.

I’d love to see if this thing works. With time maybe it can significantly improve our general understanding of the homeless condition. The model can easily be scaled to other cities and even other countries.

I can create and manage the website and throw in the first $100 if someone with great photography/portrait skills wants to donate their time and talents for a day.

Let me know.

PS is available.