These signs have become so familiar and universally used that they tend to blend in. I don't even really notice or give them a second thought anymore as to why or how they came about choosing to show their message in that way. These people usually don't speak and instead let the sign speak for them. The following 2 projects, although almost opposites, both use the concept of the homeless person sign to expand its impact and have it actually serve the purpose those who write them want them to.
The first is:
This is, as their website states, an Arrels Foundation Initiative which consists of taking the handwriting of the homeless and making them into fonts for sale. People and brands can then use these fonts in an effort to raise money for the 1,400 people supported by the Arrels Foundation.
As you can see, each typeface is expressive and unique to that individual who wrote it. No matter where they've been in life or what their struggles are, their handwriting is unique and beautiful. Their messages and needs might be similar in content, but the hand that writes each sign is unique.
SIGNS FOR THE HOMELESS
This website takes the exact opposite approach but still has the common goal of helping out the homeless who's signs aren't always effective. It is run by artist Kenya Nakayama and Christopher Hope. They also want to make these people more than just another face holding a sign. They interview them as well as give them a fully redone traditional typographically beautiful sign.
Although they make the signs fit into what is more eye catching and considered beautiful, they keep the messages exactly the same, and yet design changes them drastically.
So what is actually a better method? Using a persons own personal handwriting to bring positive change or taking their message and presenting it in a more visually pleasing way? On one hand, homelessfonts uses that own persons talents to project their struggles and get them help from a larger more powerful audience while signs for the homeless does make their sign more beautiful, but ultimately ask the same people who walk by and ignore the ugly signs to reconsider the message simply because its more visually pleasing. Regardless, I think design lends itself to do so much good and this is just one aspect in which it does so.