A film by HooplaHa.

Many of us feel uncomfortable and nervous when we come across homeless people carrying signs asking for money. We cross the street or look away to avoid making eye contact. Designer and artist Willie Baronet started buying signs from the homeless as a way to deal with his discomfort. In 1993, he embarked on a cross-country trip, buying signs from homeless people from Seattle to New York City. Along the way, something in him shifted in the way he felt about the homeless, as he got to know them as people. It was no longer "them and me" - now it was "us."

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  • Laurel

    Read it and feel more compassion, enough to appreciate "us"

  • pancho

    We Are All Homefull. Here's an excerpt from a "Homes Not Jails" direct action a few years ago: "[...The time has come to reclaim our full humanity. It’s time to put our principles before profits. It is time to evict the greed and violence in our communities. It is time to arrest the consumerism and materialism that is destroying the biodiversity of our Planet and the spirit of our society. Some politicians, in their blindness, are criminalizing to hang out on the sidewalks. And it is blindness because before “cleaning the streets”, as they say, we must clean first our minds, we must clean our consciousness and heal our hearts. How is it possible that they are spending ~30 trillion dollars to bail out the banks and not the people to provide us with homes, jobs, health care and public education? How is it possible that they are spending billions of dollars to develop “safer nuclear weapons”… they are spending ~10 trillion dollars to kill brothers and sisters on the other side of the Planet and not investing that money to eradicate the physical poverty in our communities at “home”? I’ve been living without a regular shelter for more than 2 years, and I am one of the 12 million “illegal human beings” in this part of the Planet, but I rather have no physical shelter than have no spiritual shelter. Because we, brothers and sisters, we can squat an empty building, we can crash on a friend’s sofa, we can sleep under the roof of a church, we can take a nap under the shade of a tree but how are they going to survive the unbearable wet cold of killing human beings? How are they going to overcome the excruciating pain of the fierce storm that destroys families and harasses noble souls for greed and profit? If you ever cross paths with any of these siblings, please give them some spiritual shelter; please give them a warm blanket and bed of compassion; please offer them a tasty meal of kindness; and an unconditional hot shower and clean clothes of smiles. These people are dying and they don’t know it. Please, love them, make eye contact and don’t ignore their spiritual poverty. And also let’s be clear: before arresting people without physical homes for sitting on the sidewalks, or for occupying empty houses, let’s arrest our greed and lack of compassion. Before evicting people without physical shelters, let’s evict the horrific violence in our emotions and thoughts. It is clear to me, that this issue to eradicate the inner violence in our hearts and minds also applies to us. It applies when we are not friendly with our neighbors; when we don’t share our abundance; when we are not willing to take the time to understand each other; when we demonize our opponents; when we repeat the patterns of hierarchies and patriarchy; when we talk about enemies; when we are not willing to break a law that attacks human dignity; when we don’t forgive others and more dramatically, when we don’t forgive ourselves. That is the true homelessness. Even with all the myopia and the legaloid tricks of the system, we cannot blame the politicians, governments and corporations. Because the problem lies not in their tyranny and oppression, but in our cooperation. Our victory is not about to put people in power but to put power in people. We can always create a humane alternative and disobey their rule, but always respecting the humanity of our opponents. Love and respect over fear and disrespect. And yes brothers and sisters, I know how it feels to have no where to sleep; I know how it feels when a patrol approaches with the intention of a potential harassment in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day because of the way I look; I know how it feels to have nowhere to leave your sleeping bag, if you are lucky enough to have one; I know how it feels to want to shower after a long sweaty week and have no option but to wait, with our smell, for a generous offer; I know how it feels to look for a place where to be in receptive silence in the middle of a public park; I know how it feels to search for a sign which reads “welcome home” that means it for real; I know how it feels to be rudely awaken in the middle of the night by a fellow human being you’ve never seen before; I know how it feels to have an empty stomach for days. But all that ain’t _nothing_ in comparison when I don’t have shelter for my own soul. To leave my spirit in the rain, to leave my soul abandoned in a cold night in the middle of the winter, that would be fatal. We cannot allow this to happen ever. That’s when I realized that we are not homeless, because home is every where we go. We are homefull. We are the early adopters of a (r)evolution of values. We are the evidence that this system is broken. The evidence that the totalitarianism of corporate capitalism death machine is devastating the Planet and human beings. The ocular demonstration that this system doesn’t work. We are the evidence that we need as new system, we need a new system! A system based: not in scarcity but in abundance. not in transaction but in trust. not is consumption but in contribution. not in isolation but in community. not in perfection but in wholeness. not in terror but in fearlessness. not in violence but in courage, in respect, in love.]"

  • Ahnah

    I was homeless, living in my van, my family were ashamed and didn't understand. I learned alot from the process. I am working on my memoirs...Thanks for sharing this article, you gave me hope, Homeless people have a voice and all need to hear it. So much wisdom is being said. Bless You for listening...

  • Sandy Pullella

    The time you took to spend with these folks is so rich...thank you for spreading this love and receiving the love back. I honor the work that you are doing, Willie.

  • Emily Lasinsky

    I love that Willie not only buys the signs, but has long convos with people he encounters. I think he shows them that they too are a work of art-beautiful and in the process of change. As an artist and counselor, this really hit "home". Thank you!

  • Elizabeth Garza

    My husband works with the homeless every day. He always tells me that every one has a story worth hearing. And he listens to all of them. And because of him, I have learned to listen not only with my ears, but with my heart.

  • Joam

    I felt the same way as Jesus never had a home either, people forget that

  • Diana

    This past summer I had 'homelessness, on my mind. I felt really disturbed that homeless people seem to be invisible and wondered what I could do to help. I like this story and the message of humanity running through it. We are all in this together - we are all homeless.

  • Jane

    Unable to hear speaker, only music, after the first few seconds.

  • Ginny

    What a wonderful way to engage those in need, when we feel uncomfortable.. How ironic. I appreciate your work Mr. Baronet and your williongness to share your learnings. Bless you, Ginny

  • Jude

    My brother is homeless. He is homeless by choice. I have to resist the urge to "rescue" him. He's made it plain he doesn't want to be rescued. It's not the lifestyle that I would choose, but who are we too judge. There are numerous facilities and organizations that help the homeless, but most come with conditions and many of the homeless are not willing to abide with conditions. When I give money, I give with no judgement or conditions, if they spend it on alcohol or drugs, it may be the highlight of their life and again who am I to judge? Above all, be kind. They can be your father, your brother, your sister or your mother. Most assuredly, they are to someone.

  • Brian

    Thanks Guys! Awesome. Humanity...1 language called the heart...peace on Earth...1

  • jagdish

    It is not THEM it is US

  • donna

    I was inspired that this man, one man, took his time to cross this country to do something that most wouldn't cross the street to do....I for one love to feed the homeless, give money, buy clothes for and even adopted one once, (he has passed) simply because, as said, we all have a story, and this could at any given moment happen to me or my loved ones. I am not a wealthy person in money, but I am in rich in my heart. Thank you for your acts of kindness from my heart to yours....love.

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    As someone who stops, engages in conversations, shares Free Hugs and takes homeless people to share a bit to eat I have heard the most amazing life stories. My 2 favorites were Joy, who shared her love of documentary films last Christmas when we shared hot soup under the bridge where she lived in DC. This August was Aed, a late 60ish man I met on a street corner who told me of his time in Vietnam when he wanted to be in Peace Corps and of his years as a hand-pruner of shrubs and trees. Aed spends his time creating mindfulness workshops to share his love of meditation. We are all human and we all have stories. Hugs from my heart to yours and here's to engaging in conversation and learning about each other.

  • Belinda

    Humanity

  • John

    Very well inspired! Right on!www.compassionsolutions.com

  • Philip Marriott

    ALL OF IT ,,,,,,,, EVERY SINGLE MOMENT. LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • glo

    I am inspired by Wendell's thoughts. They are new to me.

  • Karen

    I've tried looking at the homeless person's humanity to acknowledge their light as suggested. However, more often than not, I received abusive comments back because I wouldn't give $. I deeply want to see their light but clearly I'm not doing something right. I'm not sure how to approach them in a manner that would inspire love rather than resentment.

  • Greg

    Sorry, but a reptitive musical sequence and no audio of the conversations. Flop.

  • Wendell

    I'm an economist. My focus is the economics of land. Land is involved in everything in our economy without exception and especially does it apply to the cost of housing. We are all homeless because in a world where the earth, her land, can be privately owned no one has the right to be here unless we pay a landlord who has the right to evict you if you don't pay. You can become a land owner by buying land but the fat that you had to pay a price for that land does not mean you have escaped the system. Once you cannot it is very likely that you become homeless. If anyone understands how the system works against them, it is the homeless. The rest of us mostly don't understand this and don't think about it because it is so taken for granted that it is inconceivable to question it. Private ownership of land is bad enough because it is at the root of homelessness but it goes far beyond that in its effect because contrary to what we are told by the apologists of the system private ownership of land for profit stifles economic activity and is the root cause of poverty, the disparity of wealth, the decay of our cities, urban sprawl, the high cost of housing, the lack of jobs, low wages and much much more. The solution is to tax land values which are unearned incomes to landowners and untax earned incomes of all labor and the earned profit from invetment of unmonopolized capital in the real economy. Thanks for this art project and the video.

  • Luey Anderson

    Thank you Willie Baronet. Your compassion, empathy and generosity inspires me.

  • Page 1

  • Listen to Willie Baronet's TEDx talk to find out more about how he came to start the "We Are All Homeless" project.
  • Find out how artist and contractor Gregory Kloehn dealt with his discomfort with the homeless by building tiny homes using recycled materials.
  • Acknowledge the next homeless person you see - offer a smile, exchange a greeting - make contact in some way.

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