In just three weeks, William Boyajian ’12 has collected around $3,000 playing his guitar on busy subway platforms throughout New York City. But Boyajian isn’t a struggling musician playing on the street to get by. He doesn’t keep the money for himself. Instead, a sign next to his cash-filled guitar case implores anyone who is homeless or who needs help to “take as much” as they need.
It’s all part of a project that originated years ago while Boyajian was studying musical theatre at Ithaca College. He calls it “Hopeful Cases.”
“The first time I ever did a project like this was actually in Ithaca. Me and my buddy Danny Lindgren, also class of 2012, played in The Commons,” Boyajian said. “We were just going to try to go to that pizza place and get an Arizona and a slice of pizza. We ended up making $60 or $70.”
“He has since passed away, but there was a famous homeless townie who used to be a professor at Cornell and kind of burned out,” Boyajian continued. “We were saying that all we wanted was enough money for pizza and an Arizona tea, so we ended up giving him the rest.”
Since then, the project has gained momentum, thanks in part to Instagram and Twitter accounts run by Lindgren. Hopeful Cases has also gained attention from media outlets like NBC 4 New York and the Albany Times Union. Boyajian says that they are in the process of getting nonprofit status and a trademark to become “a full-fledged charity.”
Though Hopeful Cases is still a new venture, Boyajian has already had many humbling moments throughout the course of the project.
“I’m amazed to see that some regulars don’t take every day, but they’ll come up and say hi,” he said. “That’s pretty nuts to me. I’ve also had homeless people give money.”
After becoming so familiar with some homeless people in New York City, Boyajian even goes the extra mile of giving out his personal phone number to those in need.
“That’s the big thing about the nature of giving, is making sure that you’re talking. I always make sure that I’m talking to them,” he said. “Very often I give them my phone number and I give them my email. I say, ‘If you can get to a phone, man, if you’re in trouble give me a call.’ I’m not really up to handle it, but we’re trying to get to that point.”
Boyajian says that he has had both homeless people and others contact him to tell him that the project has made them “think differently.”
“I think a lot of people don’t realize the huge difference it can make at first. We waste away $10 like it’s nothing in 2017. To some people, that’s massive,” Boyajian said. “That’s the difference between struggling for that day and being able to get into a shelter or halfway house. That’s an extra hour you don’t have to be on the streets.”
Looking to the future, Boyajian would like to see Hopeful Cases spread all around the city to have musicians playing at all times on all of the large subway platforms. He’d also like to eventually develop the project in other cities too.
“I think we all want to do good. We all want to help out, but there’s 1000 things that get in the way. Just taking the step and doing it though, that’s important. [The Hopeful Cases project] has been super rewarding for me. I almost feel guilty how good I feel.”
For more information on Hopeful Cases, visit www.hopefulcases.org.