Fighting Homelessness One Step At A Time

A senior student aims to put down stereotypes on the homeless.



Ashley Kumar wants to raise awareness about people living on the streets of Los Angeles through her photography project on Instagram.

By Kaitlyn Jung, Features Editor

The homeless crisis is Los Angeles continues to grow.

With nearly 60,000 homeless Los Angeles County residents, according to the LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), seeing people living in makeshift shelters made out of shopping carts and cardboard, sleeping on the streets and under bridges and overpasses is becoming a common sight.

Many homeless people have been stigmatized, labeled as drug addicts or mentally ill vagrants, but Ashley Kumar is set on changing those stereotypes. 

To share her perspectives, Kumar is using social media to reach as many people as possible.
She started an Instagram account, @humanityforla, to share portraits of homeless people with their stories attached in the caption.

She was inspired by @HumansofNY

Her main goal is to raise awareness and to show everyone that the homeless are fellow human beings in need of a helping hand. 

“We would like to remind everyone that they’re no less than us,” Kumar said. “Hopefully, people will remember that and treat them with the same respect and generosity they treat their friends with.”

“The homeless have interests, hobbies, quirks, hardships and stories like the rest of us. Just because they don’t have homes, it doesn’t mean their hardships and stories should be invalidated.”

But even with her goal of drawing more attention to their plight, getting homeless people to participate can be tricky. 

“People have yelled at me or gotten very close to me and it can be scary sometimes, but that’s bound to happen,” she said.

While she has had a fair share of scary encounters, she also has had her fair share of willing participants who wanted to help her by introducing her to other homeless people so she can get as many interviews posted on Instagram as possible. 

With some food, kindness and an explanation of what the project is about, Kumar is able to get them to share their talents and hobbies.

When talking to any stranger, she makes sure to approach them with kindness and respect, getting their consent before they participate. 

“If you respect their privacy and show that you respect them, they’re very open to speaking to you as well,” Kumar explained. 

First inspired to act on this issue after moving into a new neighborhood about a year ago, Kumar frequently witnessed police officers constantly chasing the homeless off the streets, describing it as a “dehumanizing culture.” 

After seeing the way the homeless are often treated, she started cooking meals with her dad every Sunday for those living on the streets in downtown L.A, serving 50-100 people each time. 

Going grocery shopping the Saturday night before, Kumar and her father buy all the necessary ingredients to prepare for the next morning. Up at 8 a.m., they fill coolers with drinks and package cheeseburgers or other kinds of sandwiches with chips and drinks to distribute.

Even with her weekly effort, however, she doesn’t believe she is doing enough to address the whole issue surrounding homelessness.

She hopes she can eventually register Humanity for L.A. as a charity, build a website to increase reach, create a GoFundMe page and continue to volunteer once she goes off to college.

Through Kumar’s website, she plans to create a page where students can send in their own pictures and videos documenting their experiences with the homeless. Then she can post them on her Instagram account with credits. 

First though, she has to build her social media audience. 

She needs fellow students and people in her community to support her account and help it reach a point where students outside of school and L.A. will come across it.