The idea is as simple as their name. Povertees is a not-for-profit organization that creates and sells stylish t-shirts, putting their proceeds towards helping Los Angeles’ homeless rebuild their lives. Soon, the Povertees team will be taking their mission on the road.“I began to think about starting up during a time when social justice was becoming fashionable, especially among college students, and I happened to be a college student with an idea for T-shirts,” says Tyler Patterson, CEO of Povertees.”T-Shirts are a great fundraising opportunity because when designed properly they will provide a huge return on investment,” says Eric Uzelac of The Shirt Printer.
Back in their college days, Patterson and his friend Hughie Hughes, who’d later go on to become the president of Povertees, would make sack lunches and walk through downtown L.A. alleys passing them out. Then one day they made some new friends, who, according to their website, helped them realize that their “mission had to be about something more than passing out sack lunches. We learned that caring for people isn’t just about feeding and clothing them (although this is very important), but about knowing them, valuing them, and encouraging them to develop within a supportive community.””We realized early on that this wasn’t a charity for us, in fact, it was much more,” says Hughes.As the mission grew, so did the team. Povertees is now made up of interns, volunteers, and campus reps from colleges across the west coast, like San Francisco Sate, Azusa Pacific University, and UC Irvine.
Now, the team is able to undertake several different strategies, all designed to help those in need. One unique way they’re able to raise funds for their charitable cause is with “Pocket Parties.” Attendees pick out colorfully designed pockets of their own choice, which the Povertees team will sew onto a shirt of each attendee’s choice.
Povertees also works with the Midnight Mission, donating to the group’s emergency bed program, which provides housing to those left on the streets who’ve recently lost everything.
Soon, Povertees will actually be able to provide paid employment for some homeless women, who will make the designer T-shirt pockets that go on each of the Povertees Tees.
This month, Povertees will hit the road on a California Fall Tour. The crew will head from San Diego to San Francisco, sharing their story and hosting Pocket Parties with all different types of community groups — everyone from Greek life to churches.
The group does not exclusively work on such broad stroke programs. When the Povertees team commits to helping someone, they act accordingly based on the individual’s situation, deciding what way might help the most. It might mean helping get the person into rehab, but it might also mean helping them fill out paperwork or even just wait in line at the DMV.
“It’s an incredible group of people working together for such a beautiful cause,” says Povertees intern Victoria Sorrells. “It’s changed my life just as much as it’s changed some of the lives of the homeless on Skid Row that we’ve been able to help.”