6 Creative Ways Founders Are Combatting Homelessness

6 Creative Ways Founders Are Combatting Homelessness

In Athens, young founders provide free mobile laundry services to many Greeks who are without homes. Meanwhile, in Toronto, an art program helps at-risk Canadian youths learn about photography. These are just some of the creative ways that founders of social enterprises and other ventures around the world are giving back and tackling a global issue: homelessness.

Illustration of the three sibling founders of Frères Branchiaux, smiling and holding their product. One holds a sign that reads "Frères Branchiaux Candle Co."

1. Burning candles to help shelters

Frères Branchiaux is a candle company founded by three brothers—all under the age of 12. The boys started the business to save up money for video games, but middle brother Ryan loves that he’s also able to help others. Frères Branchiaux donates 10 percent of their profits to a local homeless shelter. The cause is close to home for the family. “I had family members who are homeless,” Ryan says. “We took them in and helped them get back on their feet.”

Illustration of a woman in a red shirt, smiling while using the SucSeed hydroponic system, built by at-risk youth.

2. Giving the homeless a chance to grow

SucSeed is a Canadian company that builds hydroponic systems, enabling their customers, no matter where they live, to grow fresh produce at home. All of SucSeed’s products are made by at-risk and homeless youth under the guidance of botanists and engineers.

3. Amplifying voices

The Curbside Chronicle is an Oklahoma City street publication dedicated to empowering homeless and low-income individuals. Sales of the magazine helped more than 40 people move into affordable housing in 2017. The paper also runs another program called Wrap Up Homelessness, selling artist-designed wrapping paper and donating profits to the cause. “The issue of homelessness is really stigmatized,” says director Ranya O'Connor. “It’s important in everything we do that we know and see the humans behind this issue.”

Illustration of Thanos Spiliopoulos, founder and CEO of Ithaca Laundry, standing in front of a van with two washing machines inside.

4. Offering free mobile (laundry) services

Employment options were dismal for Athens-born Thanos Spiliopoulos, so he started a business aimed at helping the city’s homeless. Thanks in part to the Greek debt crisis as well as a steady influx of refugees, there are many people homeless in Athens. Thanos and his friend Fanis Tsonas fundraised to launch Ithaca Laundry, Greece’s first free mobile laundry service. The company washes about 25 bags of clothes for the homeless each day.

Illustration of Gilad Cohen, founder of JAYU, looking at a DSLR camera with a female student.

5. Passing the lens

Gilad Cohen is the founder of JAYU, a Toronto-based charity that shares human-rights stories through the arts and dialogue. One of his projects, iAM, pairs homeless and at-risk youth with professional photographers, teaching them to capture photos of their city. The resulting photos, along with accompanying voice recordings, are featured and sold in an exhibit, with all of the profits benefiting underserved youth.

Illustration of David Tovey, founder of London-based ONE Festival of Homeless Arts, painting on a canvas.

6. Supporting homeless artists

Formerly homeless, David Tovey is the founder of ONE Festival of Homeless Arts, a London-based arts festival that profiles the work of artists, including many who are homeless, in photography, poetry, painting, and the performing arts. He also sells T-shirts through an online store and social-arts project Hopeful Traders. Proceeds from David’s own designs support a charity that helps people who are homeless get back on their feet.

Illustrations by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo
Additional reporting by Renee Morad, Gabby Peyton, and Stav Dimitropoulos


Do you want to create your own online store?