As CEO of Rudy’s, I split my time between our headquarters in Seattle and my home in Los Angeles. They may be thousands of miles apart, but like many cities across the U.S., they are not strangers to the issue of homelessness. Over the past few years as income inequality has risen along with housing prices, I’ve seen more and more people on the street in search of resources and support.
When considering homelessness, it can be hard to look beyond the sadness of the situation. But it’s not until I learned more about the complexity of the issue that I realized homelessness is something that disproportionately affects a group close to my heart—the LGBTQ community. With nearly 40% of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ, these young people that are already unfairly discriminated against find themselves even more marginalized. That’s an upsetting statistic for a gay man like myself to wrestle with.
As a business that was founded by three gay men and one that has a history of proudly employing and serving LGBTQ individuals, Rudy’s has long fought for this community throughout our 25 year history. Guiding us for many of those efforts has been our long-time partner, the It Gets Better Project.
Since 2012, we’ve collaborated with It Gets Better Project on a number of initiatives benefitting the LGBTQ community, including pride shirts aimed at raising money to spread their message. But the launch of Rudy’s new 1—2—3 line of shower products provided a unique opportunity for us to create a bigger impact. In early March, Rudy’s and the It Gets Better Project created an ongoing donation program that benefits homeless LGBTQ youth in nine cities across the U.S. (and counting). For every purchase of our shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, Rudy’s is donating a week’s worth of the same product to shelters—including the Ali Forney Center in New York and YouthCare in Seattle—so that everybody can feel their best.
Though a donation like this may seem trivial considering the larger needs of these individuals, small day-to-day essentials can have a big impact on someone’s life. By supplying these organizations with items like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, we’ve been able to contribute to a young person’s sense of well-being in a special way.
Rudy’s has been inundated with messages of support since launching the donation program. One story that truly touched me came from Teri Jourdan, a Michigan woman who first experienced homelessness after being disowned by her family for coming out as a lesbian at age 21. Teri reached out to Rudy’s via Facebook to share her story after hearing about the campaign. “Having a hot shower - it does so much for the psyche,” Jourdan told me, speaking about how transformative something as simple as a personal care can be to a person experiencing housing instability. “It’s like you’re washing away the shame, the depression, the anger, the discrimination - and even if it’s temporary, when you’re done, you’re clean, renewed...”
Unfortunately, Teri’s story isn’t unique. Countless organizations are inundated with young people like her who seek basic needs as well as tools that can empower them. One group that serves these communities is My Friend’s Place. Since 1988, they have been providing career resources and transformative creative programming to Los Angeles’ homeless population. As one of the recipients of our ongoing donation, It Gets Better took a closer look at the impact this partnership has created.
Rudy’s has always made it our mission to fight for inclusivity and acceptance for the LGBTQ community, a group that has been the backbone of Rudy’s since we opened our doors in 1993. Since 2012, the It Gets Better Project has been an invaluable partner in helping us fulfill that mission. Our donation effort is just the latest iteration of that fight to ensure that our communities are a safer place for everybody.