We all have friends or know people that inspire us. Whether they’re talented artists, entrepreneurs, parents, or philanthropists. My friend Jazmin Porter’s passion for helping people has always been apparent but she recently inspired me when she decided to put her good heart heart to work – making her passion for helping people an actionable item on her agenda. Jazmin started Once Homeless this year and she has already impacted several dozen lives with her hard work and perpetual acts of kindness. Once Homeless is a nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting the community by creating a support system to transform homeless lives. Once Homeless’ goal is not only to help those in need, but deliver the tools that will allow them to thrive again. While Once Homeless may have many of the same goals as more established organizations that you may be familiar with, they plan to tackle homelessness with modern and fresh approaches. I interviewed Jazmin this week because I wanted to partner with her to raise money for her organization and spread the word about her mission.
How is Once homeless different from other non-profits?
“Once Homeless gives you the opportunity for a hands on feel. A lot of times organizations are just asking for monetary help and although those things are necessary and helpful I wanted people to get to know someone’s personal experiences as if they’re family members instead of it being a one time exchange.”
What would you like to change about how people view volunteering?
“Sometimes people can be disconnected from the situation when they’re volunteering. They often see it as chore or a duty or something that they need to do in order to have prosperity in their personal lives. I think if people have an experience that is rich and make a strong connection or any connection, it will help them understand that helping somebody is much deeper than just a service or chore. We are so desensitized as a society and if I can help facilitate someone getting in touch with what life is truly about, I feel like I’ve done my job.”
What motivated you to start this organization?
“I got tired of only being able to do a little bit at a time with my own funds. I knew I could make much more of an impact if I got organized and lead with my vision. There are also other things that happened in my personal life that lead to my journey. I feel like I am directed in a certain path and as I’m living, I’m figuring it out and paying attention -staying in alignment with that purpose. It sounds crazy but life situations pushed me more and more.”
How do you feel your life’s purpose gravitated you towards starting Once Homeless?
“After I wrapped my head around the fact that i was going to do this and I wanted to do it my way. The thing that put fire under my belly was the fact that I put a date on it. I had a good friend of mine, Kristen, see what I did for Christmas last year taking gifts to homeless people on the street. She reached out to me and told me she was going to launch her online retail store and wanted to give a percentage of her earnings to the cause. She was so proud of what I had done and asked if I was serious. I gave myself a timeline and made it real. She had a launch date for her clothing line and she wanted me to be a part of her launch party having people donate at the door. After that, random opportunities were in front of me and all of them helped me get to where I needed to go.”
What advice do you have for someone who wants to help but is afraid to approach people or afraid that their small impact is not enough?
“I am a huge advocate for sacrifice. I think if you put being nervous about all of those things into perspective and compare it to how it must feel to be walked by every day and have nothing. Compare your fears to people being disgusted by you, disregarding you, and ignoring you. You can sacrifice your nervousness for something whether it’s words of encouragement, a hug, something to eat, money, etc. You have to ask yourself what is the worst that can happen?”
What have you learned?
“I’ve learned through this being my passion that people who are homeless have stories. They have mothers, fathers, sisters, and they are painted as a different part of society. When you walk into a store you can easily ask a store clerk how they’re doing or where something [in the store] is and speaking with homeless people shouldn’t be any different. The hardest thing about this is that I cannot save the world and I’ve had to accept that. I think the main reason people don’t help people is because they feel they aren’t making a difference. Thinking back on how you made someone feel is more rewarding than any purchase you can make for yourself.”
“A lot of times people look at the big picture and it looks like a big mountain to climb but each step matters. If everyone believes they cant make a difference we will never get anywhere. I think that we think that we are above being homeless or that we could never be in that position but you have no idea. There are so many different stories but everyone lumps homelessness into one category. Everybody is our family but for some reason people will let the simple fact of whether you know them or not will treat them differently. Jazmyn [talking to me], you are my good friend and I would drop everything to help you in an emergency situation but your life matters just as much as it does now before I knew you. A homeless persons life matters just as much today as it did before you knew them.”
What are your plans for Once homeless?
“My goals are to acquire as much government funding and exposure as possible. I just want to reach as many people as I possibly can. I want to be associated with like organizations but also known for making more of a long term impact. The transformation program is what I can’t wait to see flourish.”
What is The Transformation Program?
“It’s planned to be a six month program that will provide housing, job placement and a home while acquiring life skills throughout that six months. Volunteers will bond with the people in that program and have the chance to teach life skills (development events, doctors visits, bank accounts, trades etc.) while creating a sense of family. It will allow someone to become 100% self sufficient. The opportunity for me to just help carry someone and have them not worry about anything but being better is an indescribable feeling. I have experience being without and wishing that I had someone to care for me and see me through when it comes to financial situations and times when I’ve have had people help me it’s such an amazing feeling. If i can spend my life re-creating that feeling for other people, I feel like I’ve come here to do what I came to do. Having a family with once homeless is the purpose of the Transformation Program and I want people who can’t come and be a part of the experience watch these transformations via our websites.”
What have you done so far?
“We have a relationship with Wings World in Dallas. All of the to-go food that doesn’t get picked up gets put back into the community. We have our first candidate, Gladys, for the transformation program. She is in and out of a (less than suitable) motel and she is in between jobs. We have taken steps to create her resume and we are helping her find a job. Drives and events are things we try to do regularly. Right now, I’m doing a lot on the business administrative end and its a lot more than I expected. I am completely new to this so I’ve had some helping hands along the way and it has been smoother than I thought. Government funding is next so that I can do more.”
Browngirlspov.com has partnered with Once Homeless to do a Wellness Giveaway! Read more about the Giveaway and how you can enter here!