What seems like a million years ago, when I was living in Los Angeles the last go ’round, I spent a few weeks one summer living on Skid Row, working/volunteering with the homeless and several advocacy organizations. It was easily one of the most intense times of my life, living “on the nickel” (5th Street in Downtown LA–at the time the most violent crime-ridden street in the nation, with the worst crack cocaine problem in the world), and I, at least, had the escape option of going home. The violence, helplessness, and hopelessness was staggering (as were the flashes of inspiration and grace). While the living conditions have improved slightly (still pretty tough sleeping on the streets downtown) and crack has subsided somewhat in its rolling tide…it still sucks to be homeless. It always will.
Chrysalis is a non-profit based on Skid Row, working to “creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals by providing the resources and support needed to find and retain employment.” Theirs is a nationally recognized model in the fight against poverty and homelessness, and in their three centers (also in Santa Monica and Pacoima), they train clients how to enter or re-enter the job market. In 2010, 400 clients per day received services from Chrysalis, and just shy of 600 volunteers gave 18,000 hours, helping generate 218,000 hours of employment. I’ll always have a connection to Skid Row from my intimate, sometimes terrifying experiences there–I hope, even without taking up residence in a mission or “SRO Hotel” (often called Welfare Hotels), you’ll see how you are connected as well, and consider supporting the diligent work of Chrysalis with financial contributions, or your valuable volunteer time.