As an avid runner, I go through a pair of shoes about every 6-7 weeks. The shoes are still good, but the cushioning is no longer conducive for running injury-free. Part of my weekly routine is running down the San Gabriel River path where you are bound to come across tents and tarps filled with people who have fallen on hard times.
I started to give my shoes to the people I would see along the path and would notice them wearing the donated items the next day/weeks ahead – smiling and waving to me with gratitude. After seeing how useful this was, I started taking them shoes, new socks and other essentials. I continued doing this for a few years before this past summer when I noticed the increase in people, as we all have.
In July of 2020, with the help of the community, family and friends, I delivered 78 bags of food, toiletries, and clothing to the LA Mission. The LA Mission is a place for people to go shower, clean up and get a clean outfit. I chose the LA Mission due to the disproportionate number of the Black community represented in the homeless community. The Black community represents eight percent of the LA County population, but is a staggering 34 percent of the homeless population.
There are approximately 59,000 people experiencing homelessness in LA with six out of 10 being their first time in this position. Among the 59,000, 75 percent lack permanent shelter and rely on tents, makeshift shelters, or their cars for shelter. The root causes of these alarming numbers can be traced back decades, even centuries, with education disparities, income/job inequalities, and redlining of communities.
Additionally, homelessness is chronic in three out of five unhoused individuals with many having coexisting disabilities or mental health issues.
After researching the above statistics, and visiting the LA Mission, it was time to make this a permanent part of giving back. I found the LOV Movement through social media research of groups doing the “hands on” work. The LOV Movement and B.A.R.E. Truth spend every Sunday on Skid Row feeding, clothing and passing out necessities to the unhoused community.
Once again, the community came together and a group of us went down there with a couple car loads of items to donate. This one volunteer opportunity has turned in to five months of my family and many members of the community making sandwiches, donating money for pizza and water, donating blankets, sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries and basic essentials to give the unhoused community of Skid Row to survive.
I’m not sure what the answer to solving the homelessness crisis is, but after going down to Skid Row at least once a week for the past five months, I’ve met some wonderful people who just need a little help. Sometimes the needs are toiletries, shoes, clothing, a blanket and food, but many times it’s just a sandwich and a conversation.
Lately Sundays are spent seeing familiar faces who ask about my daughters’ schooling or how we are doing. With the increased unhoused population, compassion is essential to our fellow humans. Donating food, clothing, hygiene and monetary donations can save lives, especially during these trying times. Organizations like B.A.R.E.
Truth Inc. not only spend Sundays on Skid Row, they also provide mentorship, independent living assistance and wellness services to impoverished individuals and families, helping them attain healthy, purpose-driven lives. Their work truly changes the economic and living conditions of local communities. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s we can and should lookout for one another. Let’s keep it up in 2021 by getting more involved.