An Ex Sneaker Collector Shares How His Shoes Help the Los Angeles Homeless

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates its homeless population at 44,359. It’s an insurmountable number with no clear-cut solution, but one former sneakerhead is doing his part to make a difference.

In a video unveiled Sept. 19 via YouTube by digital media company NationSwell, Rikki Mendias, who founded the nonprofit organization Hav a Sole in 2014, discussed his intentions of helping the Los Angeles homeless community get around the city more comfortably. Thousands of homeless people in the area lack quality footwear, often leading to injuries and foot disorders.

After more than 20 years of collecting sneakers, Mendias realized that his stockpile of 150-plus pairs had gotten out of hand. “It was almost like my shoe collection was a slap in my own face,” Mendias said in the clip.

And that’s when he decided to do something about it.

Hav a Sole has gained traction quickly since its inception, which has allowed Mendias and his team to acquire sneaker donations from around the world and distribute them at events and pop-up shops. To date, the nonprofit has laced the area’s homeless in nearly 7,000 pairs of sneakers. And instead of settling for cheap, inexpensive sneakers that often have inferior quality, Mendias makes it a point to let his donees choose from a range of designer footwear.

“I’ve been asked why did I give away a pair of Jordans, when I can sell those Jordans and buy 30 Payless shoes and help more people,”  Mendias explained. “But it’s not about that for me; it’s about letting people choose their shoes and have a pair that regular people might have.”

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