“Ugly, Broke and Hungry”
Those were the words written on a sign held up by a homeless couple on Hollywood Boulevard one rainy night. Singer/songwriter Caitlin Crobsy had just left a screening of Invisible Children and her heart was already heavy when she encountered the couple.
“I left really emotional, just so wanting to make my life count for things that mattered” said Crosby, who grew up in Hollywood and dabbled in acting all throughout her childhood playing bit roles in TV shows and movies. “That’s when I saw Rob and Cera sitting on Hollywood Boulevard holding up a sign that said ‘Ugly, Broke and Hungry,’ so I felt led to go talk to them and see if they wanted some food and hear their story.”
Six months earlier, Crosby had started making “Giving Keys” to sell at her shows. She’d been selling merchandise for a self-image project she’d co-created with actress Brie Larson called Love Your Flawz. While on tour, she visited a locksmith to have a special engraving made on an old key. “I originally wanted the locksmith to engrave ‘Love Your Flawz’ on a key since that was my first website and passion project, but since we couldn’t fit that phrase on a key, I had him engrave other positive/inspiring words on there, like Hope, Strength, Fight, Faith, Believe, Courage, Let Go, and so on.”
She made the keys into necklaces using various chains and leather cords and they became a popular seller on tour. Crosby knew she wanted the money from the sale of the keys to support a cause but wasn’t sure which one so she put the money aside.
She found the keys’ purpose when she met Rob and Cera. At one point during their two-hour dinner and conversation, Crosby noticed a necklace that Cera was wearing and complimented it. Cera said she made her own jewelry. Immediately Crosby knew that this was what she’d been waiting for—the Giving Keys were meant to help people like Cera and Rob. She asked them if they’d like to work with her to create the jewelry. They agreed, and the next morning Crosby headed out to buy the engraving equipment and round up as many old keys as she could find.
L.A. boutiques like Fred Segal began to distribute keys, which have now been featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and on The Today Show.
The story doesn’t end there for Rob and Cera. By finding steady employment they were able to save enough money to first live in a hotel, then move into an apartment. Rob got his GED and eventually started community college. Cera got a job at the Los Angeles Zoo and now makes keys in her spare time. Today Crosby partners with People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) in Los Angeles to provide jobs to men and women who want to choose the same route as Rob and Cera. It allows them to save up money, get a bank account and move into an apartment. Crosby wants The Giving Keys to be a stepping-stone for people to find a better life.
Although she took a year to focus primarily on The Giving Keys, Crosby recently signed with Adam Anders and has an EP releasing in the summer of 2013.