As I type this, I can imagine that at this very moment, somewhere bobbins are spinning like saucers, boxes are being packed up and shipped off, and a dream is becoming a reality. Tyler Patterson, the founder of Povertees, stitched his first pocket onto a t-shirt (a Povertee) in November of 2007, with the intention of using the profits to provide the homeless population in Downtown Los Angeles food, clothing, sincere friendship, and a way out of the unforgiving cycle of drug abuse and poverty.
The Povertee’s website humbly states,
“These are the people behind POVERTEES. These are the men and women that makes a POVERTEE more than just a pocketed t-shirt…And it is with these people that we intend to highlight the inherent value of every individual in relationships that transcend ethnicity, background, socio-economic status, age, and belief – in a life sewn together.
We sell clothing so that we can continue to return to the streets of LA on a weekly basis, not just to pass out provisions and to build relationships, but also to inspire our friends to get involved with rehabilitation centers and in-patient resources. Our goal for the future is to create a system that aids homeless individuals in getting rehabilitation and eventually, in getting employed (possibly in making POVERTEES!), and in getting off of the streets.”
Fast forward nearly five years. Tyler Patterson, Hughie Hughes, and the team at Povertees are actually doing it. The only thing that can match the group’s idealism is their passion and determination to see it all come to fruition. A simple but inventive idea: pick a pocket design, pick a style (T-shirt, Tank, Hoodie, etc), and enjoy. As they anxiously await their 501(c)3 Tax Exemption status, they are preparing for trade shows, fulfilling orders, hosting “create-a-pocket” parties, and having a blast serving those in need.
I recently had the chance to interview Hughie Hughes, a partner at Povertees and a personal friend of mine. When I asked him to explain what Povertees means to him, he responded,
“It is pretty simple. I believe that it is a social medium and vehicle that can help mitigate the present disparity between the rich and the poor. My ultimate dream, though, is to see people escape the vicious cycle of poverty. The way to do that is to employ them. I want to have a warehouse in LA and other various warehouses across the nation that employ people who are trying to sober up and get off the streets. My employees, I hope, will be ex-drug addicts, homeless people, and prostitutes. Sounds overly idealistic, I know, but to be honest I feel like I have to be.”
These are the sort of people that change the world. It’s brave, it’s risky, and there’s always the possibility of failure, but it’s imperative that we try, and aide and encourage those that are trying. Margaret Mead was famously noted as having said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
The Povertees community came together and found their own mode of aide, and this has become a source of inspiration for our team here at modeofaide. It is a constant reminder to remain vigilant, and as Nobel Peace Prize Winner Albert Schweitzer once said, “Grow into your ideals, so that life can never rob you of them.” Dr. Schweitzer also said, in regards to his life as a humanitarian, “I decided that I would make my life my argument.” I’d say that Tyler, Hughie, and company are sure making one hell of an argument.
Cheers to ending the vicious cycle of poverty.
(Just bought my first Povertee, the Evergreen Larry Tank!)