BY: VIVIAN GATICA
The first shirt was made in November 2007, and although it was not perfect, what it stood for made it perfect. The pockets embroidered to the shirts not only captivate the eye because of their colorful designs, but they also symbolize the friendships that have been created in the streets. The first pockets Povertees came out with were named “Freddy” and “Larry” to honor two of the closest friends they made in Los Angeles.
“What we’re trying to do is not see people as charity cases, but in everything that we do, recognize that other people exist,” Patterson says.
Povertees was created by Patterson and his friends Matt Donahue, Trevor Smith, and GiannaPersico. Hughes, intrigued by the Povertees’mission, joined the team in 2009. The organization started small with a few shirt orders here and there, but is now receiving bulks of orders at a time.
“At times it feels overwhelming, but then we make it down to LA to see our friends, and seeing how happy they were to see us made the work worth it,” Patterson says.
Povertees has come up with creative ways to get the word out about their shirts. They have “Pick-a-Pocket” parties where the guests can buy a shirt, design their own pockets and then sew them on. The leaders of the organization also speak at various community events and clubs to tell people what Povertees is all about.
All the profits made from the shirts either goes into the production of the more shirts or gets invested into the trips they make to Los Angeles. They buy sack lunches, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits and other necessities for their friends on the streets of Los Angeles. Povertees wants their friends on the streets to feel like they can come to them for whatever they may need to survive.
“We want Povertees…to pull people out of the background and show them that we value and consider them as friends,” Patterson says.
The Povertees team ensures that all relationships they make with these people are organic and do their best to maintain them. Freddy, one of their friends in Los Angeles, was able to get off the streets with help from the charitable organization. Povertees bought him a cell phone so he could contact an employer that had been trying to reach him, and he got the job and was able to rent an apartment.
“Becoming friends and building a community is at the core Povertees, and hopefully we can enrich and transform lives,” Hughes says.
Povertees features a variety of pocket designs on their shirts. The latest pocket designs are based on the theme, “Life Around Us.” These pockets feature the solar system, animals and other forms of nature.
“The fact of the matter is, there is life all around me, and I want to do what I can to reach out to that life,” Hughes says.
The ultimate goal is to create shirts that will spread a message. They want people to know that homelessness is a serious problem. They believe that homelessness should not be resolved only by handing things out, but by genuinely caring about the people on the streets. Povertees wants all people living on the streets, not only the ones in Los Angeles, to feel that they have someone they can go to for help.
“If your friend was in need then you would definitely try and help them,” Patterson says. “So why don’t we try and do that for other people?”
To get in touch with Povertees, go to www.povertees.com