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Seattle's Union Gospel Mission is launching a line of clothing as a way to humanize the homeless and to create jobs for the people the Mission serves.
The clothing lines is called Others Like Us, and will include T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats featuring the OLU logo, which is shaped like a face. One T-shirt design features an image of a Seattle homeless man.
KTTH host Ben Shapiro talked to Union Gospel Mission President Jeff Lilley about the clothing line and how it will change the way the public interacts with the homeless.
"We want to be able to send that clear message, when we work with the homeless, they're not different, and they're just like us. They're part of our community. [The clothing line] is encouraging people to see them as individuals we need to reach out to," Lilley said.
Shapiro questioned whether the philosophy behind the OLU line - to "break down barriers and tell stories that challenge our beliefs and humanize our homeless neighbors - that encourages people to interact more with the homeless is safe.
"I'll admit it, when I drive up to an off ramp and a homeless person is sitting outside with a sign, my inclination is to not have a conversation, it's more to call up Union Gospel Mission and donate money," Shapiro said. "What's the appropriate way to treat a homeless person you see on the street?"
Lilley said that the public should exercise some caution when approaching anyone on the street. But he also said that there's a misconception that all homeless are dangerous - and that when a person ignores a homeless person simply because it's awkward, it has a dehumanizing effect.
Lilley said that estimates show that around 25 percent of homeless people have a mental disability, but many more have a substance abuse problem, which may appear to some as a mental impairment.
If you pull up to an off-ramp and see a homeless person, Lilley said, it would be good to strike up a conversation with that person, or ask them if they need anything. "What we're encouraging people to do [with the clothing line] is to change their perception on who [homeless] people are - to have more compassion for who they are," Lilley said.
The Union Gospel Mission, Lilley said, does not believe that the homeless should be consigned to living on the street. The Mission advocates for the homeless, but that all those living on the street should get access to safe living spaces.
The Others Like Us clothing line will be available for sale to the public on March 7.