Houseless Records tour promotes music while destigmatizing homeless musicians
Houseless Records aims to bring awareness to the homeless creative arts and music scene while also setting the record straight on being homeless.
The group started a few years ago. They're called houseless musicians, but they're quick not to identify as homeless.
On the surface, Houseless Records is about supporting street musicians and artists. Beyond that, the group hosts community-building events via food, music and art.
They are actively involved in helping out the community in Homer and other cities around Alaska. It's also about fostering positive relationships between the homeless and the housed people who interact with them.
The story behind Houseless Records
The group's founder goes by the name Foot. She jokes she got her "bachelor's" in backpacking America with a minor in mental health. While on her travels, she says a homeless community let her stay with them after losing her wallet and identification.
"My sheltered and privileged horizons were quickly broadened when a homeless community took me in," Foot said. "There's more to the story, but the moral of it is that I was exposed to the underbelly of America. It's hard for me to summarize what I saw and what I learned throughout four years of nomadic life, but ultimately it's what inspired Houseless Records."
Foot says a four-month adventure backpacking America turned into four years of traveling meeting people across the country who shared her story.
"These humble people showed me how to exist off very little and exposed me to a perspective many people never see, or at least speak about," she said.
Resources and community involvement
Volunteering with Teens
The R.E.C. Room is a youth and resource enrichment co-op that provides programs, activities, access to resources, education and a safe space to hang out with peers for teens, some of whom struggle with unstable housing. In Jan. 2019, Foot started Music Mondays — a program at the R.E.C. room where she teaches kids music skills. Houseless Records helped maintain and bring in more music supplies and teachers to the R.E.C. Room.
Foot started an open mic night at Stowaway Cafe in Homer which ran from May-June of 2019. Lynsey Stow, the cafe owner, made delicious discounted soup for the community at these events. Foot says this was successful in building a community of people who could rely on each other for support.
Releasing street music
In fall 2018, Houseless Records captured some of their first audio recordings right off the sidewalk while Foot backpacked through the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, these recordings were lost, which is why they will record as many street musicians as they can during their upcoming Front Porch Tour.
Hobo Rage Trade
Foot started the Hobo Rag Trade which features an upcycled clothing line that gives back to the community. HRT sells patches sewn by hand and made from recycled materials with 11% of proceeds donated toward Houseless Records.
The Homeless Action Group in Homer set up a homeless shelter or bunkhouse for teens struggling with unstable housing. Foot attended these meetings to learn about the logistics on this process while sharing insight from her houseless experiences. The project took a hiatus and Housless Records learned about the many struggles in finding ways to get sustainable funding for housing projects.
In November 2018, Houseless Records held the event, Honor Thy Hobo, at Van's Dive Bar in Anchorage. They raised $222 for Downtown Soup Kitchen and $222 for Houseless Records.
The group also collected three huge boxes of warm clothes that were donated and distributed to homeless people in the area.
The bus, the Front Porch Tour and the movement
Homeless Records' mission? Destigmatize the homeless.
Foot's dream started out as a small seed that was supported by a few people who believed in the project. As Foot put it, she found ways to "water" herself and her idea to grow.
And it did.
From hosting events, volunteering with nonprofits, hunting for the right bus, building a website, gaining teammates and finally buying a bus this summer with funds raised from shows.
Houseless Records is hitting the road for their Front Porch Tour across the U.S. and Foot says many people are tagging in and tagging out along the way to make this tour possible.
Their first show is Aug. 9 in Spokane, Washington and the tour will wrap-up in November at a show in California. Foot says they'll stop at 50 cities and will post specific locations, dates and times of shows on their social media because many of their stops will be set up while they're on tour.
This is a grassroots house-show tour featuring houseless musicians. Foot says, in these intimate venue spaces, the goal is to bring the community together while also giving back to each town that hosts them.
Each house will double as a community-building event and they will be fundraising at every show. This money will go towards covering basic needs such as gas and food. They will serve free food and use their bus to serve houseless people on the streets downtown in every city they stop at. They're committed to serving three hours of community service for every stop of their tour.
Foot says they are trying to tap into these communities to bring people together and create self-sustaining houseless communities that can support one another. She says you don't have to donate money, just get involved and make a connection with someone. They will be selling merchandise on the tour to raise funds for future projects and resources for Houseless Records.
Being homeless, it's hard to come by resources. Foot says she learned to prioritize her mental health while she was on the road. She discovered art, music and the people she met are healing for her.
"Their instruments were what fed them and were their therapy and their best friend and I was like wow some of these people I am never going to hear again and I want to be able to record their music," she said.
The #FPT2019 tour is about that too, highlighting houseless musicians across America, recording them and putting performers on a stage to share their music and story.
"Putting them on a stage kinda changes that perspective with someone walking on the sidewalk usually the homeless person is sitting down, so they're above them and maybe they're not above them in any other sense, but the physical aspect of it, they are kinda walking above them," she said.
Trying to bridge the gap
Foot wrote in an Instagram post:
"Music brings people together and everyone deserves to express themselves through art."
Foot says music and food are what connect all people and she walks between two worlds now: the housed and the houseless.
One of the hardest things to become accustomed to while living on the road, she says, is a lot of people dehumanize and demonize the homeless, assuming bad things about them.
While on her travels in Ohio around her birthday, she really wanted to make art. So, she found some cardboard and her friend bought her paint from a dollar store.
"I had it displayed all over the sidewalk and it was super awesome, but because I was homeless I remember this woman walking by and like there were kids that wanted to come and look at the art," Foot said.
She went on to say, "Their parents literally dragged them and would yank their arm and look forward and not look at me at all. It was so hurtful and shocking to realize I was not human to them. Not only that, but that's what they were teaching their kids, that's how you treat someone in my situation."
In trying to bridge the gap, Foot leaves her mark on destigmatizing the homeless in every city Homeless Records plays — one show at a time.
The group is a passion project Foot hopes will turn into a nonprofit in the future.
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