Stuck For A Gift Idea? Buying From This LA Start-Up Directly Helps The Homeless!

Original GRIT is an LA-based company that is raising vital funds to help homeless veterans by selling hats and handcrafted bracelets. The cash generated through these unique gifts is used to provide essential items to homeless people, to make their situation a little easier.

The packs include tooth paste, toothbrush, towel, socks, protein bars, bar of soap, shampoo, sun screen, first aid kit, bottles of water, non-perishable fruit, hand sanitizer, shaving cream, disposable razor, deodorant, wet wipes, mints or gum.

The company was set up by three friends: Dillon, Martin and John, who were shocked at the level of homelessness in their community and wanted to give something back.  “We chose GRIT to be the focus of our project to encourage others to be fearless and resilient in times of adversity,” explains co-founder Dillon Ceglio. “It is through an individual’s persistence and fortitude that they develop GRIT, and no one shows more of this than the homeless veteran community.”

The kits provide homeless veterans with everyday items
The kits provide homeless veterans with everyday items

The friends are currently working with the Skid Row Housing Trust in Downtown Los Angeles to help with the process of housing all homeless people, including non-veterans. However, the decision to focus the start-up mainly on vulnerable ex-military personnel was taken simply because veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness.

“Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance abuse,” Dillon told True Activist. “Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.”

As of 2014, there were roughly 50,000 homeless veterans accounted for across the country according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. According to the LA Times, there are over 4,000 homeless veterans living in the greater Los Angeles area as of June of 2015.

As troops return from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the face of veteran homelessness has changed: homeless veterans are increasingly younger, female, and heads of households. Despite this, homeless veterans are still most likely to be males between the ages of 51 and 61 (43%) and to have served in the Vietnam War. And, in the next 10 to 15 years, it is projected that the number of homeless veterans over the age of 55 could increase drastically.

Whether or not you agree with past and ongoing US-led military operations, it’s impossible to argue with the fact that people returning from service to find themselves completely abandoned by their government is a disgrace. Without start-ups like Original GRIT, the situation for those personnel who have suffered great trauma would be a whole lot worse.

Billy with his Original GRIT essentials kit

Dillon and the team told us about Billy, who served eight years in the U.S. Army following 9/11 and was based out of Fort Bragg in NC. He completed 2 tours in Iraq and suffered injuries in both. Upon finishing his years of service, Billy was diagnosed with PTSD. Looking for a fresh start after his divorce, he decided to move to LA. Within three weeks of moving, his car was totaled and his dog was seized by the police. To make matters worse, an injury from his second tour was misdiagnosed and left untreated for four months. An infection grew in his leg, which has resulted in a permanent disability. Billy now lives under the 405 pass on Venice Blvd, and is grateful to Original GRIT for providing him with essential items to make life a little more bearable.

Dan with his essential Original GRIT kit
Dan with his essential Original GRIT kit

The team has also helped Dan, who served with the US military between 1976 and 1980. Dan has been living on the streets for more than 14 years. He has attempted numerous times to contact the VA (Veteran Affairs), but his efforts have gone unanswered. Dan is almost 60 years old, and is constantly looking for work. He has not had luck given his age, and does not own an ID which makes it even harder for potential employers to hire him. Original GRIT told us that Dan is adamant about not wanting a “hand-out.”

“He doesn’t want something given to him; he wants to earn it. His craft is carpentry and will continue to search for work as long as his body will allow him to,” Dillon explained.
Original GRIT will be available to pre-order at a discounted price through their Kickstarter campaign that launched on July 27, 2015. Their campaign with a funding goal of $10,000, will run for 30 days. If you would like to help, please consider buying one of the great gifts available online, or connect with the team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

This article (Stuck For A Gift Idea? Buying From This LA Start-Up Directly Helps The Homeless!) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and

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