This past weekend we packed our cars with clothing and meals for 200+ people living in Skid Row, Los Angeles. Our annual giveaway began on Friday as a group of volunteers and Team DBP gathered to sort clothing and cook meals. The following morning, 10+ volunteers joined to make our way to the streets of Skid Row. The scene before arriving to Azusa Lighthouse is a sad one. At a glance, you can find groups of men and women sleeping on the streets covered by blankets and cardboard boxes, you see children on strollers riding along with their mothers down the street, and people dancing with music bumping as early as 7:00am. You cannot help but wonder, “how do they survive out here?” “Why aren’t we doing more to help these people?”
Eight years ago, in 2000 the homeless population in Skid Row was at 17, 740. Currently, this population continues to increase in numbers of men, women, teenagers, and young children. At the heart of Skid Row stands Azusa Lighthouse Mission, a church that works diligently in support of the people living in this area. This congregation focuses on restoring hope in the inner city of Los Angeles; “We bring hope to those whom society sees as “derelicts” or “human wreckage.” Through the use of resources provided by the community and the help from volunteers, Azusa Lighthouse Mission provides daily meals, clothing, and hope through christian based religious services. The pastor and church staff believes that through the word of God, people are able to find peace and hope in the midst of so much need.
Our serving day began at 10:00am with 150 people including men, women and kids lined up outside the gates. We were able to provide them with clothing, hygiene kits, and spaghetti/salad lunch all thanks to our 14 volunteers who graciously donated their time and loving hearts to serve others.
In engaging with the participants on that morning, I met Tom who kindly shared stories about his life living in Skid Row. He shared how many people are capable and able to come to Skid Row and pass out items but that not many deliver a message. Tom mentioned that despite his status in society, being homeless, he believes he too should be valued. Tom has recently began volunteering for the church and shared he was thrilled to giveback even though he was very little himself, “I know that I can do all things through christ, I know that to people on the other side of town we don’t exist. but yes, we are here and we need love too.”
Often we are quick to judge those living in homelessness, forgetting that like many things in life, stability is so fragile. It’s like we have distanced ourselves tremendously from the issue of homelessness in our society as if it weren’t a major crisis staring at us throughout the many counties in California. People living in Skid Row are people who like you and I had dreams and aspirations and despite their current situation they continue to inspire others through their resiliency and hope for a better future. Engaging with Tom and other participants taught me about the power of lending a helping hand and sharing words of encouragement; after all, you never know when you will need it yourself.
To all you who donated: Thank you for sharing your items with people who need them. Your gently worn clothing are much appreciated by those attempting to stay warm on the streets this winter. To our Volunteers: Thank you for your helping hands, compassion, and laughter; I am convinced every single person left feeling appreciated, thank you.
Written by Jennifer Covarrubias