KAR WOO - THE HOMELESS HELPER

Age: 65

Occupation: Founder of Artists Helping the Homeless

Location: Kansas City, MO

Relationship Status: Doesn't disclose

BACKGROUND:

Woo moved to the U.S. years ago as a foreign exchange student from Hong Kong and has since started a homeless program (Artists Helping the Homeless) where he houses, feeds, and helps homeless men (in their early 20s-30s) get back on their feet including help with medical care and transportation to jobs and interviews. He considers these guys his kids and once he takes them in, he makes sure they get jobs to not only survive but excel - not just get a job at McDonalds but a job they have a passion for. All of the men call him Mr. Woo and rely on him for their education on adulthood.

CALLING IN THE EXPERTS:

FASHION: Woo is not a fancy guy and only wears t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. If he has to go to an event he'll wear a tie but put a t-shirt over it!? Woo organizes fundraisers to purchase clothes for the men he helps, but never buys anything for himself. The guys only have t-shirts, jeans, and sweatpants. They dress casually for job interviews, just as they see Mr. Woo do to important meetings with city officials and donors. 

GROOMING: His hair is long, and he'll go to Super Cuts once a year for a $9 haircut - but this year he didn't go! He asked his guys to trim it! While most of the guys are clean-shaven with short hair, upkeep is never on their mind since the only grooming products they use are the ones donated to the house.

DESIGN: Woo lives in Oberlin Park, KS but the house (Bodhi House) for the homeless men getting back on their feet is in Kansas City and Woo spends most of his time there when not sleeping. It has four bedrooms and can hold about 12 people where they pay minimal rent and live off of donations. It needs updating and looks like a dorm with just mattresses and very little furniture. As you can imagine, 12 guys in one house lends itself to mess, broken EVERYTHING, and all around grime.

FOOD: Woo hasn't cooked in 12 years! He lives off junk food and fast food, not giving the guys a good example for culinary health. The guys have a Sunday dinner every week but Woo can never be found in the kitchen, which rubs off on the guys - as you can see from the dished piled in the sink.

CULTURE: Most of these guys have never been exposed to any of the theater, arts, etc. KC has to offer, and Woo cannot always afford to take them around town. Additionally, these guys haven’t had a lot of experience getting jobs that can turn into careers and Woo believes any help in the confidence department would certainly help.

FAB FIVE CONNECTION: The Fab Five will have a blast kicking it with the guys, many of whom have ambitions to be hair stylists, chefs, and physical trainers.

 

EVENT: Woo wants to take his fundraisers to the next level. This summer he wants to have a huge event where people from all over KC can come and donate used clothing and furniture.

ALT. EVENT – Take the guys out for a night on the town, experiencing the fun cultural events that KC has to offer.

Nominator: Tricia Smith, colleague/friend

  • Tricia has been working with Woo for months as a colleague and she views Woo as a mentor within the non-profit charity community. She loves him but knows both he and the guys he helps could use some guidance from the Fab Five.