This Street Artist Is Using Spray Paint to Raise Awareness of the Hopes and Dreams of the Homeless

With his humanizing art project, Skid Robot hopes to spark compassion for residents of Los Angeles' Skid Row.

(Photo: SkidRobot/Instagram)

Oct 20, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

A warm bed to sleep in, a teddy bear to snuggle with, or a piece of candy corn to munch on because it’s nearly Halloween—those are just some of the everyday wishes of homeless people that street artist Skid Robot is helping make come true. At least, they’re coming true through art. In hopes of sparking compassion for people who live on the street, the Los Angeles–based artist has been spray-painting their hopes and dreams around them.

The artist, who has his roots in graffiti, began drawing humanizing scenes around homeless individuals after spending time in Los Angeles’ Skid Row area. He’s been posting the images on his Instagram account since last November, drawing hundreds of likes from empathetic fans on social media.

(Photo: Skidrobot/Instagram)

“I wanted to do something different other than, you know, write my crew or write my name. I was cruising around Skid Row one night with my girlfriend. In all honesty, she was the one who suggested I go out and paint it,” Skid Robot told Vice. “After the first one, which was the woman dreaming of the dollar signs, it was like a fire [in me]. So that night, I probably did about four or five [drawings].”

It’s estimated that more than 3,500 people sleep on the streets and shelters of the 50-block section of Downtown Los Angeles. In September 2013, homeless teen James Ward made headlines for managing to get into Howard University despite living on Skid Row. But given the mental illness and addiction that disproportionately affect the homeless population, happy-ending stories like Ward’s are few and far between.

(Photo: Skidrobot/Instagram)

To genuinely help the people he is drawing art around, Skid Robot began making them care packages full of snacks and toiletries. Now he’s also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 to film a documentary that will “tell the stories of the desperate dreamers across the U.S. who are experiencing homelessness.” The artist believes critics who think the art project is exploiting folks who are down-and-out are missing the point.

“The bigger issue is: Why is this person sleeping there? There’s a bigger injustice taking place there that I’m addressing,” Skid Robot told Vice. “I’m painting an image that makes people reflect upon things; makes people stop and look at the homeless person that they’ve walked by a thousand times, and probably never bothered to lend a helping hand.”