For the past 20 years, Willie Baronet has stopped his car to ask homeless people on street corners, “Can I buy your sign?” He first asks how much the person wants for the sign, and then negotiates a price. He buys most signs for about $10.
After two decades of collecting signs, Baronet has amassed hundreds of them – and spent about $7,000. “His collection comes in many forms: colorful, crumpled, heartbreaking and hilarious. He has his favorites, but he admires each piece as a unique artifact” (Jason Sickles, Yahoo).
“Sometimes it’s the writing, what they say,” Baronet said. “Sometimes it’s the way they do their lettering. Sometimes it’s typos. I’m interested in the expression that goes on.”
What began as just an interest has now turned into a passion project. Baronet now displays the signs in art exhibits, often spreading the cardboard messages along the ground. He says it’s always interesting to watch visitors as they walk across the art and then slowly realize what they are stepping on.
“I find it odd that somebody would think that stepping on a piece of cardboard on a gallery floor is a big deal when they might be willing to ignore a person day after day.”
Several weeks ago, a team here at Portland Rescue Mission went around the greater Portland area, talking to people that were panhandling, or “flying a sign,” to hear their stories and learn more about why they were asking for money.
The stories were so impactful. Every person had a totally different backstory, many different paths that led each person to end up in the same place. But one truth echoed in each person’s story: just being recognized goes a long, long way.
Rhea, one of the homeless women we talked to, summed it up perfectly: “It honestly means more to me when someone just says hi and talks to me. More than when people give money.”
You can help. You CAN make a difference. Click here to read 7 Way To Help A Hurting Person, and make sure to check back later this summer for our documentary on this very topic and how you can get involved!
Source: Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/artists-unusual-homeless-sign-collection-makes-some-people-uncomfortable-144416870.html)