Harmonic Humanity Empowers Homeless
AJ Lovewins was struggling with life and addiction in 2001 when he unexpectedly became homeless. Two years later, on a windy fall day, tired, hungry and strung out, he simply ran out of gas and realized he needed to get help, or surely lose his mind or die.
He stumbled into a phone booth, and reached out to the foster family who had taken him in as a youth. He was one of the fortunate ones–they took him in. And although he would miss the mark initially in the face of their loving support, relapsing and leaving home again, it was a start towards recovery, healing and personal transformation work that would ultimately birth a mission to help those still out there.
When asked about how he came to the Landmark forum, AJ said he had been to an introduction years before when he was in his early 20’s in Los Angeles. Someone had invited him to a Special Evening about The Landmark Forum. He never forgot the experience. As he was getting himself back on his feet he remembered it and thought it might be useful to him. He was right.
He subsequently looked up the Seattle Landmark Center and walked himself into a Special Evening there, and registered with the aid of some peers. He wanted to change his life for the better to a world of new possibilities. During that time, despite his challenges with PTSD, money and recovery, he started a music program at a soup kitchen in Seattle, working to give back to those still out there.
During that year he shared what he was learning at that soup kitchen an he brought musicians there to play what he calls “conscious music” to lift people’s spirits. He also provided needed outreach to some of the elders and youth there.
When he did the Self-Expression and Leadership Program he decided he wanted to take the soup kitchen program and expand it into something larger. It was then that a project called Harmonic Humanity was created. In 2013, the project became an official non-profit organization.
With Harmonic Humanity, AJ produced an album of donated music from some of the musicians who had played at the soup kitchen. During that time he had also reconnected with a friend in northern California who was into the human potential movement. This friend sent AJ some musicians as well who really wanted to make a difference in the world.
His plan was to give the CDs to the homeless to sell. They would keep 100% of the money earned. The idea was modeled after the street newspaper phenomenon around the country where individuals experiencing homelessness are given the opportunity to start their own small businesses by buying the papers for 25 cents and re selling them for $1. It is a micro employment model that fosters dignity, self esteem, and a positive connection with the community. The idea with the CDs was they could sell them for ten times the money and the CDs would have a more universal appeal to the public as a way helping people out.
Approximately 10,000 CDs were quickly distributed in Seattle with the help of The Real Change newspaper. King 5 (a major news network in Seattle) did a story on them and since that time they have expanded to San Francisco, which AJ now calls home again. Since then the organization has developed the program to include counseling for people on the streets, with certified counselors and coaches to meet people who need those services right where they are–sometimes on the sidewalk, sometimes in an alley.
AJ says oftentimes people out there are at a crossroad, and on any given day those crossroads can include using drugs or doing whatever you have to do to survive, things that obviously can hurt you and others in the long run. Coming from homelessness himself, the programs at Landmark, and also counselor training, he continues to embrace opportunities to share his education and experiences with others–tools he said he never had when he was out there.
A lot of what AJ has accomplished has been in partnership with his best friend Joseph Jacques, and more recently with Managing Director Nancy Carroll, who has spent many years doing conscious work herself, along with havinga successful business history. Together the team works to weave conscious music, employment, outreach, and counseling and coaching into the organization’s mission, with the hope is that it will awaken something in people and give them nourishment for change from within, which, they believe, it really needs to come from. There is support from the city and state in the form of beds, a meal, or a welfare check, but little in the way of tools that actually can help people to transform themselves from the inside out, says AJ.
On the streets, HH counselors do whatever they need to do to make a difference for each individual. Sometimes it is as simple as listening. Sometimes it is recreating what is being said back to them. Oftentimes it is helping people create a new narrative for their lives, from one that is problem saturated to one that will empower them. Other times people need help with basic needs and resources like blankets or referrals to places where they can find services. His hope is that he can help them think in new ways that help them to lives they truly love.
“When you are on the streets, you don’t normally have access to the kind of conversations that are generated in Landmark or through counseling circles. Through providing those kind of empowering conversations, lives change,” notes AJ.
Currently the organization is developing an educational piece called The Hero’s Game Book, which will be an anthology of teachings from those in the human potential movement. “We are seeking to work with people like Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and others to have them contribute teachings that would be helpful to someone in a crisis situation like homelessness,” AJ says. This workbook will be given out free, as HH volunteers will take it to people in prisons and shelters and on the streets. AJ wants to enroll Landmark graduates to donate some of their time each week for coaching as well.
He says “It all goes back to my personal experience of being homeless, getting back on my feet, and having my entire life transform through the kind of work that Interchange, leaders in the human potential movement and Landmark provides.” He feels that if this kind of work is provided to people on the streets and supported by coaches–even if it is online–it will help. The world is learning it’s more profitable to house the homeless; it’s also more profitable to educate them. The homeless are our greatest resource right under our nose, says AJ, and are worthy of our best.
His Current project is a fund he is building for homeless students in the U.S. According to AJ, homelessness among students is at an all time high. Within our nation, elementary, middle school, high school and students at some colleges, make up 1.2 million homeless people of the 3.5 million total homeless population. He hopes the fund will grow annually to offer small grants to these students and also provide them with some of the educational tools he is developing through his book.
Today, music celebrities such as Jason Mraz, Maroon Five, Michael Franti and others support his cause and he says the numbers of influential supporters are growing.
This is proving to be a big year for Harmonic Humanity and they are reaching out to various communities for support to make a difference.
He says people can reach out to them on their website at www.harmonichumanity.org.
Also, check out Landmark News’ first story about AJ and Harmonic Humanity.