Volunteering to serve the homeless has been one of my goals for a very long time, I just didn't know how to go about doing it. I always felt like as a woman I had one hand tied behind my back since I didn't feel that I would be safe. It wasn't until I met another hair dresser by the name of Dustin that I was able to find a group of people that also had a heart to serve the nameless in our society. I don't say nameless in a derogatory manner, but simply because most people don't know the names of the homeless within their community because they have never spoken to them. On Easter I handed out food and spoke with people that are around the park by my salon in Costa Mesa. I felt safe because it was a familiar place near my house. Venturing to Skid Row in Los Angeles was a scary idea and a whole different animal.
Eleven of us set out from Orange County Thursday morning to desend upon Skid Row in Los Angeles; five hair stylists, three photographers, and three people that just wanted to connect and serve the community. We came with our cameras, shears, food, clothes, and open hearts. The entire time we were there, my constant prayer was that I be at God's will and that he direct me to the people I needed to talk to and connect with. I set out to do hair cuts, but if that wasn't where the need was, that His will be done and not my selfish ambition.
I didn't do any haircuts, but I spoke with a couple of people who's stories resonated with me. I was unable to capture them on video because most people in the community on Skid Row don't want to be exploited; and understandably so. Below are a few of the stories from the people i met.
Freddy was standing on the street corner with a little table of cigarettes that he sold individually. He had the best afro ever and was so kind when I walked up to him and started asking my normal round of questions, that to some come across as too personal to ask people when you first meet. He told me that he had lived on the streets for 18 years, pointing across the street to a green pole from where we were standing. He told me his wife and him were hooked on crack and that he had given up his whole life for drugs, but he didn't come to the realization that he need/wanted to stop until he was arrested 6 years ago. Even though on every corner in Skid Row there are resource centers for addiction it wasn't until the back seat of the cop car that he said he was done and checked himself into a facility. His wife was too scared to quit and said that she would as soon as she saw what his life looked like. The most amazing thing is that not only has he been clean for 6 years, but his wife has been for 5 and regrets not quitting sooner. I gave him a high five, because our stories from the outside are different, but they are very much the same. We share the same amount of time being clean! I am proud to say that i have been clean longer than I ever used drugs, but its remarkable the life transformation. Freddy and I both chalk that up to how amazing God is. We both could not be where we are today with out Him. The more amazing part of this story is that Freddy and his wife have a studio apartment and a 2006 Honda!!! What an amazing story of redemption and hope in a seemingly hopeless place.
Jazy was one of the first people I connected with. She had a red weave and I of course complimented her on her hair. We talked for a while about her story, how she ended up where she is and what the need is for the people on Skid Row. Her story started with her being a star athlete and led to her being in an abusive relationship and eventually addiction. My heart hurt for her because standing in front of me was such a strong, independent woman with confidence, but has been crippled with addiction. Jazy taught me a valuable lesson on making sure that I know I am being watched at all times and to keep my back to a wall when i am standing. Two things I would never think about.
Cat was a young white girl that was sitting by herself outside of the Union Rescue Mission eating a jello cup. I asked her if she wanted a haircut but seemed sort of shy about it, so I naturally sat down next to her and asked where she was from. She let me know that she is from Burbank and that her mom told her to check out the mission. I was blown away that here I am with 10 other people and i am intimidated by everything around me. Here we are in Skid Row where child molesters, rapist, murderers, and gang bangers are and this young girl is by herself. I felt like such a wimp!!!
YOU & ME
Many of the people I meet in day to day life could be the people standing on Skid Row. I can see how it is not hard to slip into living on the streets. I have met enough addicts that are funded by their parents that would be in the same shoes as some of the people I encountered. The need is so great and i don't have answers for how to solve the problem. The one thing i do know is that 80% of people are ignorant to what life looks like outside of suburbia and callus to educate themselves. I walk away from each of these experiences realizing that my problems are so small and complete joke in the grand scheme. We each have so much to give and it doesn't have to be money. Holding down a job for many of the people I met would be extremely difficult with out recovery and learning a new skill set. From each person I spoke with that lives on Skid Row, the greatest need is hygiene packets. If you feel called to donate these packets for the next time I go, you can send it to the address below.
- tooth brush
- tooth paste
- band aids
- socks (this is hot commodity)
- granola bar
- Rinse Free Shampoo
- Individually Packaged Disposable Tampons
- Sanitary Cleansing Towelettes
DONATE (please do not send money)
Hygiene packets, or socks, underwear can be sent to :
- P.O. Box 2444, Newport Beach, CA 92659
Lots of love,