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Signs of the Times

Now that the season of giving is coming to an end and the holiday food drives and volunteering at local pantries and soup kitchens is slowing and the holiday bell ringing has faded away.  The cold Chicago winter begins to come at us full force.  Attention may not be on those in need, but they are out there and their stories, hand-scrawled on pieces of worn cardboard for any passerby to read.

Graphic Designer Christopher Devine has noticed these signs walking around the loop and believes most will just walk by without reading the signs, too uncomfortable to stare. He and the panhandlers around the Loop are banking that these new signs will help bring attention to the needs of those living on the streets.

via homelesssigns.blogspot.com

They are written in that familiar font you see on the buildings of Michigan Avenue and State Street.  But now, along side American Apparel, Create&Barrel, The North Face, Sears and Staples you have men and women holding up white laminated placards with the simple message of “Homeless” or “Please Help”.  Devine and a couple friends have gone around the city and offered up these signs to those hoping for a little generosity while passing them by.  It’s too early to tell if the project has helped the panhandlers make more money.

The signs are quickly being seen all over downtown, making me more aware of the prevalence of this issue. Using the same font to deliver the message of Homelessness and The Gap is ironic and hopefully those in need will benefit as the brands have over the years.

Overtime, we shall see where this project will lead.  Devine is hoping to take the signs to other cities, but mostly as a grass roots campaign.  The recent success of the signs is great, but eventually those signs will be as ubiquitous as the stores filling the buildings they lean against and eventually leading to the power in the simple message.

Devine says some who initially accepted have returned to their bent up cardboard notes because they didn’t see dramatic changes, but others want a wider variety of sign.  For now he is planning on one addition, “Veteran”.  And that is surely a sign of the times.

You can contact Christopher Devine about his project directly at homelesssigns.org.

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