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VIDEO: Crown Heights Man Makes Homeless Comfortable One Shoe at a Time

By Savannah Cox | December 1, 2015 12:39pm
 Andre McDonnell is on a mission to change the city's souls, one shoe at a time.
Andre McDonnell is on a mission to change the city's souls, one shoe at a time.
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YouTube/HLN News

In the city that never sleeps, a good pair of shoes can mean the difference between a painful and relatively peaceful day — and it's also something that many among New York's homeless population lack.

Andre McDonnell saw this firsthand in 2012. While in SoHo one day that summer, McDonnell, 41, noticed a homeless man standing barefoot on the searing concrete.

The Crown Heights resident removed his new pair of sneakers on the spot and offered them to the homeless man, who accepted them, McDonnell recounted to HLN in a recent interview.

Scroll down for more text below the video:

While McDonnell gave away his Jordans, he gained an idea: supplying the city's homeless with new or like-new shoes to make their days a little bit easier.

Three months later, McDonnell founded "It's From the Sole," a non-profit organization which distributes donated and lightly-used sneakers and outerwear to the city's 67,000-plus homeless people.

Once received, McDonnell deep cleans the donated shoes and then places them in a bag, which he then takes across town in his shoe-giving mission.

On his trips, McDonnell often frequents what he calls the "Love Triangle" — the area between Port Authority, 34th St. Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Station and Union Square, where McDonnell says there is a large homeless population.

"I go up to them and say 'Hey, how are you, I'm Andre. Do me a favor, take those shoes off and I'm going to get you a better pair of sneakers,'" McDonnell said.

While many are happy to accept the shoes, McDonnell says that there are just as many who are defensive and don't want his help.

"I've been cursed at, spit at, yelled at — anything you can't say in church, I've been called," McDonnell said.

And yet, McDonnell remains undeterred. "I'm not going to stop because they don't want my help," he said.

"If you give a homeless person $100, they're not going to go to Foot Locker," McDonnell said. "They're going to get food, they're going to take care of themselves. That's where I come in. I love sneakers, I love them. And I want to help."

To date, "It's From the Sole" has distributed over 8,000 pairs of shoes to New York City's homeless, and he hopes his idea catches on elsewhere.

"We touch one person today and they say, 'I can do that in Minnesota,' 'I can do that in Kansas,'" McDonnell said.