CL: What are the origins of Blanket the Homeless?
KN: About 5 years ago, my buddy Mario Ornelas, a drummer, and I started a band called Berkeley Bronx. I asked him how he felt about doing all of our shows for charity and specifically homeless charities. Mario thought it was a great idea. We first reached out to Compass Family Services and did a bunch of shows for them. And then about three years ago, I found out that the comedian Margaret Cho was doing street performances to raise money for the homeless. Her program was called, “Be Robin” and it was her way to honor her friend Robin Williams who had just passed. What she was doing was brilliant. She had a sign that said, “If You Have, Give; If You Need, Take.” People would come by, hear Margaret and her friend Gerri Lawlor do music and comedy, and put money in her guitar case. Margaret would then offer the money to anyone who needed it.
Money In … Money Out … No middleman ….
I tracked her down on Facebook and said “Hey I really love what you’re doing. I’ve been involved in homeless outreach for the last two years and would like to support you in whatever way I can.”
She said, “Great why don’t you come tomorrow to Larkin Street Youth Services. We’ll be on the street in front of the place. Bring your stuff.”
So I show up in the Tenderloin with my little battery operated amp and my guitar. Next thing I know I’m singing on the street with Margaret accompanying me on “Wonderwall.” Bob Mould, one of my punk rock idols, shows up and plays a few tunes. There’s a bunch of other great musicians there. The Chronicle is shooting pictures. There’s a woman giving haircuts to the homeless. Someone shows up with a ton of spaghetti. Another shows up with port-a-potty on a truck. A comedian and documentary filmmaker, Kurt Weitzmann starts shooting footage, which later became an award-winning film, BE ROBIN …
Needless to say, we all felt that something REALLY important was happening here.