Each year, the mpls downtown council recognizes and honors leadership by individuals, organizations and initiatives alike through our 2025 Plan leadership awards. This year, Hippy Feet was selected as a recipient. The mpls downtown council asked Hippy Feet about its mission in advance of receiving their leadership award at our mdc gala on Wednesday, October 11.

 

How did you think up the idea for Hippy Feet? What did you do to make it a reality?

I first had the idea for Hippy Feet while in recovery from a traumatic brain injury that I suffered in October of 2015. This injury left me unable to work or continue attending the fall semester of my senior year of college at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls. At the time I was in a place of adversity and I felt compelled to make a difference in my own life, but more importantly in the lives of those who didn’t have that same opportunities as me. While in recovery, I came across a statistic that stated socks as being the most requested, but least donated articles of clothing at homeless shelters. As an avid fan of funky socks myself, I saw an opportunity to leverage my love for socks and desire to give back. During the months of healing, I was able to begin to develop what is today Hippy Feet. When I was able to get back into classes the following spring semester, I began taking the necessary steps to bring my idea to life. I gained some funding the following April and after further research and development Hippy Feet made its official launch in September of 2015.

Describe how you are giving back to the community today, including sock donations and providing employment opportunities?

Hippy Feet donates a pair of socks for every pair that we sell. In addition to this, we use some of our internal operations, such as packaging and inventory management, as a means to provide temporary, “pop-up” employment to young people experiencing homelessness. In our first year of business, Hippy Feet is proud to have been able to donate 5,000 pairs of socks, primarily in the Twin Cities area, to the population affected by homelessness and has created nearly 20 part-time jobs for homeless individuals. A significant number of these jobs were created through a photography project called “Mile in My Socks,” which aimed to raise awareness about the realities of youth homelessness through photography and community engagement. In addition to these efforts, Hippy Feet will engage in Street Outreach, passing out socks while getting to know and better understand the needs of the downtown homeless community.

What types of partnerships in the downtown area are you engaging in to help provide even wider support for those in need?

Hippy Feet has a strong partnership with YouthLink, a non-profit organization that serves homeless youth ages 16-23. With YouthLink, Hippy Feet is able to gain a better understanding of how we can support underprivileged youth in Minneapolis. We co-coordinate employment and fundraising events/opportunities, raise awareness about how the downtown community can participate our shared mission, and share resources to better benefit our causes. Hippy Feet also works with the downtown council and strives to create new ways to give back to the youth affected by homelessness. Currently, Hippy Feet is planning a fundraising and awareness event in the downtown area aimed to create employment and platforms for young people to express themselves in through art all the while engaging with the local downtown Minneapolis community.

How important is it for the general public to help those experiencing homelessness, whether it’s donating time, talent or resources to help individuals get back on their feet?

I heard a quote the other day from a formerly homeless youth, “It takes a village to raise a village.” I believe this to be all to true for when it comes to combating homelessness. If the issue of homelessness is ever to be defeated, it will take the entire Minneapolis community, and the general public as a whole, to work collaboratively in our efforts. It all starts with educating the public on what homelessness actually looks like, and how they can help. For businesses who are capable, create jobs suitable for those affected by homelessness, for individuals looking to give back, offer a meal, a spare jacket, a conversation, or even a smile, which can make all the difference in someone who is affected by homelessness. The more the public knows about how and where they can help/volunteer, the more capable we are to adequately serve our local homeless population

What would you say to others who are looking to get more involved in a particular giveback activity?

My advice to those who are looking to get more involved in giving back, is to just start. Start by doing what they can with whatever skills/resources they have. Contact local shelters/non-profits such as Youthlink, Women’s Advocates, St. Stephens, etc. These organizations are always looking for volunteers and resources. I you feel compelled to give back, do it and it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you have. I find myself learning from the individuals I encounter on a daily basis. Take the time to have a conversation with someone in a different position than your own, because not only will you learn how you can best support them, but you will remind that person that they are valuable and just as importantly, that they are heard.

To you, what is the biggest impact Hippy Feet has on downtown Minneapolis?

For me the biggest impact that Hippy Feet has on downtown Minneapolis is our ability to create awareness and employment. Our overall goal is to change the connotation associated with homelessness and to get the whole community involved in our efforts to give back. The more we know about what it actually looks like to be homeless, the more we can help. I am proud of the traction that we have gained thus far and of the support downtown Minneapolis has shown to keep our movement headed in the right direction. Our outreach efforts and our donations have provided clean socks to thousands of the homeless individuals in the downtown area. I am also proud of the number of jobs that we have been able to create for people affected by homelessness and of the way that these jobs have impacted the lives of the individuals we have worked with. For 3 of the individuals that we have been able to provide a job, that experience and income has helped them transition them off the streets and into housing.

What do you enjoy most about downtown Minneapolis?

What I enjoy the most about downtown Minneapolis is its ability to project a “small town feel” while at the same time offering the excitement and busyness of a metropolitan city. Downtown Minneapolis offers a communal experience. I always feel welcomed and that I am a part of a community all working together for the common goal of improving the quality of life for EVERY walk of life. From the courtesy waves in traffic to the friendly smiles and conversations with passerby’s on the sidewalk, it is all of these things that will forever make downtown Minneapolis a place I can call home.

What does the 2025 Plan mean to you?

To me the 2025 plan is a plan that makes me incredibly proud to call Minneapolis my home. It shows me that I live in a progressive city that cares about improving the quality of life for everyone that makes up its diverse population. The 2025 plan is an initiative that I am proud to contribute to and to benefit from. This plan allows to trust and believe that the leaders of this city are truly genuine and passionate about making Minneapolis the best place to live for EVERYONE, no matter their race, social status, or sexuality. The focus of this plan will surely make Minneapolis a better city and a city that I can look forward to living in and introducing to friends and family as I grow.

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